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Introduction — June 21, 2017

A convoy of US armoured vehicles near the norther Syrian city of Manbij. Click to enlarge

Contrary to what Jack Keane, a retired U.S. four-star Army general, says in the following article, the Iranians are not “driving the war in Syria”. The U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia are doing so in an effort to oust Syrian President Assad.
The U.S. is NOT in Syria to fight ISIS, as it claims. It’s there to assist its proxy forces to conduct regime change. Or it was until Russian intervened and changed America’s game plan.
As such the following article is little more than disinformation. Readers will note that from the outset it quotes various figures, such as James Jeffery, a former U.S. envoy to Iraq, who blame “Iranian expansionism” for the conflict in Syria.
As they say that ‘s putting the cart before the horse, because Iran only intervened in Syria after U.S./Israeli/Saudi proxies in the guise of Islamic State set about to topple President Assad.
However, with Islamic State facing defeat on the battlefield, America and its allies need another reason for military intervention in Syria and they may have just found it. In the words of former ambassador Jeffrey, the U.S.-led coalition “believe Iran must be contained”.
This explains why in recent weeks the U.S. has shot down several Iranian made drones. Although Iran insists they were engaged in operations against Islamic State the U.S. claims they targeted “coalition forces”, i.e. forces acting as U.S. proxies to oust Syrian President Assad.
Add to that the recent shooting down of a Syrian fighter by a U.S. F-16 — which Syria claims was engaging Islamic State but which the U.S. maintains was targeting “coalition forces” — and the Syrian conflict looks as if it has the potential to escalate into something much bigger.
Moreover one can’t help wondering if this change of plan in America’s Middle East agenda hadn’t been discussed during Trump’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel?
If that is the case, and there is good reason to believe it is, then there is reason to believe that after consultations with Israel and Saudi Arabia America decided to step up its effort to contain “Iranian expansionism”. Ed.

Downing of drones in Syria threatens to draw U.S., Iran further into war

Jim Michaels — USA Today June 21, 2017

Recent clashes between the United States and Iranian-backed forces in Syria highlight a broader struggle as Iran attempts to maintain its influence in the region, despite the growing presence of local forces armed by the U.S.-led coalition.

The military actions also show the Trump administration’s willingness to confront Iran when needed in the six-year Syrian conflict, analysts say.

“The underlying problem is Iranian expansionism,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq with extensive experience in the region. The Iranians are worried about who will fill the power vacuum after the defeat of the Islamic State, which is steadily losing territory, he said.

Jeffrey said the administration is now grappling with developing a new strategy that takes into account efforts to blunt Iran’s actions to expand its influence at the same time the U.S. military is focused on defeating the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“They believe Iran must be contained, but what they haven’t worked out is the implications of that,” Jeffrey said.

Iranian-backed forces likely will continue to challenge the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of about 50,000 local troops that the U.S.-led coalition has trained and equipped to combat ISIS.

The Iranians want to hold “an arc of influence” that runs from Iran through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon, said Jack Keane, a retired four-star Army general. “If that ground ends up held by U.S.-backed forces, that interferes with their strategic plans.”

In recent weeks, the United States shot down two Iranian-built armed drones and a Syrian aircraft over Syria. U.S. aircraft have also attacked ground forces around a coalition outpost in southeastern Syria.

The Pentagon described the attacks as defensive to protect the SDF, which were being threatened by the armed drones and the Syrian warplane. The drones were shot down by U.S.-aircraft around al-Tanf, an outpost in southeastern Syria where U.S. and coalition advisers are supporting elements of the SDF.

“The coalition will not allow pro-regime aircraft to threaten or approach in close proximity to coalition and partnered forces,” the Pentagon said in a statement this week after a U.S. F-15 shot down the Shaheed-129 drone.

Both Iran and Russia are backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The United States says it is not opposing Assad militarily and is focusing on combating ISIS in Syria.

“The coalition calls on all parties to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security,” the Pentagon statement said.

Russia has criticized the recent U.S. actions and threatened to cut off a special communication hotline with coalition forces after an American warplane shot down the Syrian aircraft near Raqqa on Sunday.

But analysts say it is Iran directly challenging U.S. forces, because controlling  territory between Iran and Lebanon is critical to its strategic objectives.

“The Russians are very satisfied with what they have accomplished,” Keane said. “Assad is now in power indefinitely, and they have a new strategic asset in the Middle East, an air base in Syria.”

Assad’s military has been worn down by the ongoing civil war, and Iran has assumed a major role in in defending the regime. Tehran has dispatched Hezbollah militia, its Quds forces and at times conventional Iranian units. Iraqi Shiite militias and Syrian government forces are also part of the overall force.

“The Iranians are really driving the war in Syria,” Keane said.


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