The U.S. air strike last week targeting Iranian-led forces in southern Syria signaled escalating tension between Washington and Tehran over the six-year conflict in Syria. The U.S. military said it carried out the raid because an Iran-directed convoy was advancing toward a “de-confliction zone” near the al-Tanf region, where the U.S. military is training Syrian opposition forces to fight the Islamic State. The militia forces reportedly did not respond to U.S. warnings. The air strike – the first such action by the U.S. military against Iranian-linked forces in Syria – was meant to send a strong signal to the Iranian-supported forces that they will not be allowed to reach the Iraqi border. But reports in the Iranian media suggest that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and its proxy groups in Syria are still determined to challenge the presence of the U.S. military forces along Syria’s borders with Jordan and Iraq. This raises the likelihood more direct confrontation between Iran-controlled forces and the U.S. military and its allies in the region.
Iran-led forces advancing toward al-Tanf
The Iranian media reported today that the Syrian Army and Iranian proxies are continuing their operations in the Syrian Desert and are heading toward the border region of al-Tanf. “The resistance forces are making efforts to reach the al-Tanf region, which is occupied by the Free Syrian Army,” wrote I.R.G.C.-affiliated Fars News Agency. It added that these forces are 25 miles away from al-Tanf. Reports in the Arab press also suggest that Iranian-led forces embedded with the Syrian Army are marching ahead to Syria’s eastern and southern border regions. Another Fars report claimed that the Syrian Army has also deployed forces in al-Suwayda region close to the Jordanian border and “managed to advance more towards al-Tanf border-crossing in Southern Homs to foil a US-led plan for occupying Southern Syria.”
The I.R.G.C. media claims that the U.S. military has beefed up its presence in border regions in southern and eastern Syria in order to block the Iranian-supported forces to link the land routes between Syria and Iraq. “America, Jordan and England have taken measures to create a security belt along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The aim of this operation is to counter the resistance front and cut off the land route between Iraq and Syria,” wrote Fars News Agency.