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    A projectile is launched by a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) operated by the US Marines during a live fire exercise as part of the Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise (PHIBLEX) at Crow Valley in Capas town, Tarlac province, north of Manila. (File)

    What's Behind US Deploying HIMARS Missile Systems to al-Tanf in Syria

    © AFP 2017/ TED ALJIBE
    Middle East
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    On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the United States has redeployed HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems from a base in Jordan to Syria. The Ministry’s statement read that those systems could be used against the Syrian Army.

    "The US has redeployed two High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from Jordan to a US special operations forces base near the Syrian town of al-Tanf [18 kilometers from the Jordanian border]. Deployment of any foreign weaponry to Syria, especially multiple artillery rocket systems, has to be coordinated with the sovereign state's government", the statement read.

    The Russian Defense Ministry also pointed to the fact that any foreign weapons deployment to Syria must be authorized by the country’s legitimate government.

    It added that the HIMARS deployment does not comply with the US-led coalition declared goal to fight Daesh.

    "The US-led anti-Daesh coalition has several times attacked Syrian government forces fighting Daesh near the Jordanian border. It is possible to assume that similar strikes could be continued in the future, involving HIMARS from now on. So what objectives is the US pursuing in Syria?" the statement said.

    From Tehran to Damascus

    According to expert in Middle Eastern studies Ali Rizk, the current actions of the US and its coalition partners are aimed at undermining Iran’s influence in the region.

    "At the moment, [US President Donald] Trump administration’s priority is preventing the creation of a land route spanning from Iran to Lebanon in the so-called Shia Crescent," Rizk told RT.

    He elaborated: "What we’re witnessing now should be taken in the same context. A group of countries led by Iran has significantly expanded their influence in the region. Russia expressed concern that instead of fighting Daesh, the US has attacked pro-Assad forces."

    The HIMARS deployment to the area of al-Tanf is understandable because the Damascus-Baghdad highway runs through the city and further to Iran.

    According to Rizk, if the Syrian Army takes control over the area Damascus will have a direct corridor between the region controlled by Syrian forces and its allies in Iran. If this occurs Tehran would be able to provide Damascus with weapons and reinforcement. The actions of the US-led coalition and opposition forces are aimed at preventing this scenario.

    "This is why they will stay in al-Tanf until Daesh is completely defeated. They say their goal is to prevent the spread of the terrorist threat. There is a military base in the city where opposition forces have been trained to fight Daesh," the expert said.

    Coalition Strikes in al-Tanf

    Last month, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the US-led coalition of hindering the Syrian army's  advance against Daesh by conducting strikes on pro-Damascus forces in southern Syria.

    The ministry added that instead of fighting Daesh the US-led coalition along with the Syrian opposition have agreements with terrorists so that they can leave the territories under their control and attack the areas controlled by Damascus

    "Instead of destroying the terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the US-led coalition together with the Syrian Democratic Forces […] conspire with Daesh leaders for them to peacefully surrender the settlements they control and relocate to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are actively engaged," commander of the Russian grouping in Syria, Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin said.

    On June 8, the US-led coalition bombed pro-Damascus forces near al-Tanf in the area of a de-confliction zone following an alleged attack by a combat drone resulting in no coalition forces' casualties. This was the third attack by the coalition on Damascus' allies in the area. The coalition targeted a drone and trucks with weapons.

    On June 6, the Pentagon announced the coalition conducted a strike on pro-Syrian government forces as they entered the de-confliction zone with Russia and posed threat to its personnel. The force comprised of a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. The first similar attack on pro-Damascus forces near al-Tanf took place on May 18.

    Related:

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    US Strikes in Syria: 'Trump Seems to Be Supporting a De Facto Partition'
    Tags:
    air strikes, military conflict, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Daesh, Syrian Arab Army, al-Tanf, Iran, Syria, United States
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