On Thursday, the U.S. military deployed mobile artillery rocket launchers at the Al-Tanf military base in Syria, where the U.S. trains the forces of the loose anti-Assad, anti-Daesh (ISIS) coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket launchers had previously been deployed in Jordan near the Jordan-Syria border, where the U.S. had used them to fire at Daesh positions earlier this year.
However, the sudden decision to move the artillery into Syria has raised the concern of Syria’s ally, Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry responded to the U.S. deployment of HIMARS inside of Syria with anxiety, warning in a statement that the artillery would soon be used against the Syrian Arab Army and pro-government militias active in the region.
The statement asserts that “the range of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) is not enough to support the U.S.-backed units of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting against the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) in Raqqa.”
“At the same time, the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition has several times attacked the Syrian government forces near the Jordanian border, so it can be assumed that such attacks will continue, but this time involving the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems,” the statement added.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the HIMARS deployment on Friday, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noting that, according to Russian military data, no Daesh militants are active in the region where the HIMARS has been deployed. Lavrov speculated that the real motive behind the HIMARS deployment at Al-Tanf may be to cut off Syrian troops from allies in nearby Iraq.
Russia’s concerns are hardly unfounded, as the U.S. military, particularly at Al-Tanf, has opened fire on and killed pro-government forces on multiple occasions in recent months. The U.S. has claimed on several occasions that the area surrounding the Al-Tanf base is a “deconfliction zone,” similar to those created by an agreement made between Russia, Iran, and Turkey with the support of the Syrian government. However, the U.S. unilaterally created the deconfliction zone at Al-Tanf without the approval of the Syrian government – it is, therefore, not recognized by Damascus or Moscow.
Despite this caveat, the U.S. has repeatedly used the zone’s presence to justify firing on pro-government forces within Syria. Analysts have speculated that the U.S.’ use of pre-emptive force in these cases suggest that the U.S. is not so much defending its troops as pursuing broader geopolitical goals within Syria.
Indeed, the U.S. has made it clear that the operation to remove Daesh from Raqqa, of which the Al-Tanf base is a part, is intended to accomplish the U.S.’ long-standing plan to partition Syria.
The U.S.-backed SDF announced in April their plans to give control of a post-Daesh Raqqa to a “civilian council” instead of the Syrian government whereby the council would be supported by more than 3,000 U.S. ground troops. General Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command has stated that these U.S. forces would stay in Raqqa as long as it was necessary to help “America’s allies” ensure regional stability and establish “Syrian-led peacekeeping efforts.” Essentially, the SDF – with U.S. support – will establish an independent state within Syria following Daesh’s defeat in Raqqa.
As MintPress previously reported, the U.S. plan to partition Syria is not a new idea and was touted on several occasions by former Secretary of State John Kerry, along with journalists and prominent U.S. academics who argued that partitioning was the “necessary” solution to the Syrian conflict.
Now, with the invasion of Raqqa well under way, the U.S. military is positioning itself to achieve its long-standing geopolitical goal of partitioning and regime change, ensuring that peace in Syria will remain elusive even after the defeat of Daesh.