The U.S.-led coalition in Syria bombed a convoy of pro-Assad forces threatening the coalition base in Al Tanf on Tuesday in an incident similar to one that occurred on May 18.
“Despite previous warnings, pro-regime forces entered the agreed-upon de-confliction zone with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers posing a threat to Coalition and partner forces based at the Al Tanf Garrison,” said U.S. Central Command in a statement.
“The Coalition issued several warnings via the de-confliction line prior to destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank,” the statement added.
CENTCOM insisted that the coalition “does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces but remains ready to defend themselves if pro-regime forces refuse to vacate the de-confliction zone.”
The U.S. military has grown increasingly concerned about pro-regime militia forces massing near the deconfliction zone. Last week, the Pentagon declared the presence of these groups “unacceptable and threatening” to coalition forces.
Another international dimension to the conflict is that the forces menacing the deconfliction zone are believed to be Shiite militia groups linked to Iran. Military Times quotes analysts who believe the Iran-backed militias are hoping to “harass the facility and surround it, making the base useless for U.S. goals.”
“The smart solution for Assad allies would be to encircle Tanf, the rebels would be unable to move outside Tanf and Tanf becomes useless, and dangerously useless for American forces,” Fabrice Balance of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the Military Times.
The conflict may come down to a test of resolve, as Tehran and Damascus are said to be very serious about taking control of the area after the fall of ISIS. The Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa is now under attack by U.S.-backed forces.