U.S. officials have confirmed that the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition hit Bashar al-Assad regime targets near Syria’s border with Jordan. Reports of the incidents were first circulated by rebel forces and Arab media outlets, prompting the United States to confirm the military strike.
The U.S. coalition made the decision to strike pro-Assad, Iranian-backed Shiite militia when the regime forces advanced too closely to the al-Tanf training base, where American military advisors are working with allied-partners, including Jordan and the United Kingdom, to train the so-called New Syrian Army (NSyA).
According to foreign policy expert Rao Komar, “The New Syrian Army is a key part of the U.S. government’s ‘Train and Equip’ program which was set up to arm rebel groups to fight ISIS. New Syrian Army fighters are vetted by the U.S. and Jordan to ensure that they are not extremists."
“Furthermore, they are required to sign a document pledging to only fight ISIS and not the Syrian government,” adds Komar.
The al-Tanf border crossing is essentially no-man’s land, a buffer zone between relatively stable Jordan and fragmented, polarized, and war-weary Syria. By nearly every metric, Syria is a failed state. Only recently have Assad regime forces (with the help of civilian-killing Russian cluster munitions and high payload bombs) taken over rebel-held territories in Aleppo and other towns near the battle-hardened Idlib province.
Despite the presence of U.S., UK, and Jordanian special forces (as well as American aircraft, including F/A-18 jets, and fueling stations), Russian warplanes have struck coalition-backed anti-ISIS forces at the al-Tanf crossing with impunity before.
But on Thursday, the U.S. finally responded to the regime’s provocations.
To be fair, the coalition had a degree of flexibility here. Initial reports suggest that the U.S. struck Shiite militia not only funded by Iran but trained and equipped by embedded Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the notorious military-intelligence arm of the Islamic Republic that reports directly to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In fact, the Iranian government semi-official Fars news agency reported on the deployment of 3,000 Hezbollah fighters to al-Tanf shortly before the U.S. airstrikes targeting regime forces.
Hezbollah is a proxy terrorist group for Iran. The Lebanese Shiite group’s fighters operate as mercenaries for Tehran, carrying out the dirty work of the mullahs across the soon-to-be reified Shiite crescent. From launching terrorist attacks along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to slaughtering women and children for Iranian-ally Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah has all but mastered the art of savage guerrilla warfare.
Given the group’s strong connection with Iran, Tehran will likely voice outrage over the U.S. coalition airstrikes; that outrage, however, will likely fall on deaf ears.
The Trump administration has already expressed a strong desire to reconsider key elements of the Iran nuclear agreement. As a result, Trump isn’t beholden to Iran the same way Barack Obama was.
Tying the hands of the U.S. coalition behind its back, Obama insisted on a hands-off approach to the genocide in Syria in an effort to appease Tehran. Half a million dead Syrians later, Iran is doubling-down on its ballistic missiles program and expanding ts sphere of influence to Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and even Bahrain.
After striking the Syrian regime’s al-Sharyat airbase last month, Trump showed the world, particularly the Iranians, that he was willing to respond to Assad’s gross violations of human rights, marking a new path forward for U.S. policy in the region. Trump’s imminent trip to Saudi Arabia is a reflection of this new policy as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other key administration and military officials hope to reassert America’s traditional alliance with Sunni Arab states, and Gulf States that are actively fighting the Russian-Iranian-Syrian axis (largely through proxies), after it was seriously undermined by the Obama administration’s Iran-pandering.