Pentagon Sends Reinforcements To Remote Syria Base After Russia Threatens Attack

France’s Chief of Defense Staff General Francois Lecointre

Given its location, the base constitutes a strategic point for the U.S., but Iran and Russian Federation are competing for influence in the area.

The Russian threats may be a way of testing US resolve to keep troops in Syria now that President Bashar Assad's forces, backed by Russian troops and warplanes, have succeeded in defeating rebels everywhere except Idlib province and areas of eastern Syria controlled by the USA and its allies. At Tanf, the base where a coalition of dozens of United States troops and Syrian rebels launch counter-ISIS operations, is seen as a critical location within the scope of Iranian, Syrian, and Russian influence in the region.

"The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war", Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement. "However, if attacked, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition or partner forces", said another.

"We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability", Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Indian capital of New Delhi for a high-level dialogue on Thursday between the south Asian nation and the United States.

US troops are conducting a major live-fire exercise at At Tanf in Syria, US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported Friday, just one day after Russian Federation accused the US-led coalition forces operating in the area of harboring terrorists and threatened to launch strikes in the deconfliction zone.

Tensions in Syria have been running high as the Syrian regime prepares an offensive on the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

That was followed by a letter sent Thursday to Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the commander of US forces in Syria, warning that Russian Federation planned to carry out "precision strikes" near Tanf against Islamic State fighters, a warning that prompted Funk to speed up plans to dispatch additional troops to the base.

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"Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS", Brown said.

Idlib's fate now appears likely to rest on the results of Friday's Tehran summit between the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran - a meeting that Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov on Wednesday said would make the situation "clearer". Putin rejected it, claiming that the possible fate of civilians was being used as a "pretext" to ease pressure on what he called terrorists.

He said instead there was a history of Assad's government using such weapons.

Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted: "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province."The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy."Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed".

USA officials would not say how Moscow conveyed its warning to Washington.

The ministry said it had targeted buildings used to store weapons and explosives including a facility used to assemble explosive-packed drones that rebels have used to attack Russian planes stationed at Hmeymim air base.

The Trump administration has warned Syria, Russia and Iran not to kick-start the offensive over fear of civilian casualties leading to continued bloodshed in a civil war that has lasted seven years.

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