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General Valery Gerasimov’s allegations, made in a Russian newspaper interview on Wednesday, are specifically in relation to a U.S. base in al-Tanf, a strategic border crossing that could link Syria to Iraq and Iran. The U.S. has made a specific point of protecting this particular location, even going so far as to bomb Syrian government troops and their allies on the ground earlier this year even though those same troops were backed by Russian air power.
Russia says the U.S. base there is illegal and that the area around it has become a “black hole” where militants are free to operate without question, Reuters noted.
Gerasimov claimed specifically that the United States was training up fighters who were former Islamic State militants but who now call themselves the New Syrian Army, among other names. Gerasimov also claimed Russian satellites and drones had spotted militant brigades at the U.S. base.
“They are in reality being trained there,” Gerasimov said. “They are practically Islamic State…But after they are worked with, they change their spots and take on another name. Their task is to destabilize the situation.”
Approximately a week ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said that following ISIS’ defeat there was no longer a reason for the U.S. to maintain a presence in Syria and that Washington’s reasons for staying were baseless.
“Any reasons cited by the Americans to justify their further military presence … are just excuses and we think their presence must end,” Lavrentiev told reporters.
However, for those who have followed the conflict closely throughout the year, Russia’s allegations (whether they true or not with respect to ISIS) are just part and parcel of Washington’s plans to foil Russia, Iran, and Syria’s impending victory in the war-torn nation. As Anti-Media predicted in June of this year, the U.S. launched an assault to claim as much of the Deir ez-Zor region (Syria’s most oil-rich region) in September. However, as also predicted by Anti-Media at the time, retaking Deir ez-Zor would be completely meaningless without securing the border crossing at al-Tanf, as well. As Anti-Media explained:
“To put it simply, the U.S. is not only training the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to retain the vitally strategic border crossing area of al-Tanf, which, if owned and operated by the Syrian government, could link Iran to Syria, Iraq, and right through to Hezbollah in Lebanon (incidentally, al-Tanf is the latest instance of the U.S. shooting down an Iranian-made drone took place)…”
“…Further, having complete control of Deir ez-Zor without opening up the al-Tanf border to Syrian government control would make the liberation of Deir ez-Zor almost meaningless to Syria and its allies, as Deir ez-Zor would be cut off from the rest of Syria. The two offensives go hand in hand, and this is exactly why we see the war escalating rapidly on these two fronts.”
Whether or not Russia’s specific claim about the U.S. training ISIS or other militants is true, Russia continues to be right about one thing: the U.S. military is in Syria illegally. Getting them to leave peacefully, however, will continue to be a major issue in the years to come unless Russia is willing to engage the U.S. directly. This appears to be increasingly likely, as Russia is more than capable of implementing a no-fly zone of its own in Syria. According to Russia’s state-owned Sputnik, Russia’s missile defense system has already been tracking U.S. jets in eastern Syria in an attempt to send a message to their American counterpart.
As it stands, Gerasimov also stated that the U.S. base is completely blocked off by the Syrian army, anyway, so perhaps we can all hold our breath in the meantime and pray this looming conflict can de-escalate through other means.