Russian raids around al-Tanf accompanied by accusations against Americans

Russian pilots handle a Russian warplane at the Hmeimim airbase in the countryside of Latakia governorate on the Syrian coast (Sputnik)

Russian pilots handle a Russian warplane at the Hmeimim airbase in the countryside of Latakia governorate on the Syrian coast (Sputnik)


Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli

The Russian Ministry of Defense has repeatedly announced its aerial targeting of sites for “militants and extremists” around the al-Tanf area in the eastern Homs governorate, where the International Coalition Forces (ICF) led by the United States are stationed in an area known as the “55-kilometer zone” or the al-Tanf military base.

The Russian announcements always come unilaterally, as Washington has not announced that Moscow has struck sites belonging to it, nor have the US-backed local factions announced any Russian targeting of their bases.

Despite the reality of these strikes actually taking place and the American disregard of them, it is impossible to ignore that they carry Russian messages to Washington, which is stationed in several military bases along the border strip between Syria and Iraq.

Moscow indicates in its announcements that its raids have reached “armed groups” or “extremists” or both, after they left the al-Tanf base where US forces are concentrated.

Repeated raids

As monitored by Enab Baladi through official Russian media outlets, Russian warplanes have raided more than five times in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor during the current April, indicating that the targets are linked to al-Tanf.

The latest raids were on April 18 when the Deputy Head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation (a department of the Ministry of Defense), Major General Yuri Popov, stated that Russian air forces destroyed five hideouts used by “militants who left the al-Tanf area and resorted to hard-to-reach areas in the Amour Mountain Range in Homs province.”

On the 15th of the same month, Popov said that his country’s air forces destroyed a hideout for “militants” in areas east of Homs governorate, eastern Syria.

According to what was reported by the Russian news agency (TASS), the Russian air forces destroyed a hideout for “militants” who had left the al-Tanf area and fled to the Amour Mountain Range near al-Tanf.

On the 1st, 4th, and 6th of April, the Russian defense announced similar strikes in the same area for the same purpose.

Did the raids actually occur?

Russia had previously targeted groups close to the American forces in al-Tanf, and the Americans had mentioned it, but Moscow did not declare its responsibility for them as has recently been happening.

On June 15, 2022, bombing at headquarters belonging to the Free Syrian Army faction (Revolution Commandos at the time) supported by the US in the al-Tanf military base caused “minor damage,” according to what the military faction announced at the time.

Russia did not declare responsibility for the same attack, but the American network “CNN” quoted unnamed American military officials as saying that Russia had warned, earlier, the US military that it would carry out airstrikes against the Revolution Commandos faction.

Based on this, the American forces warned the faction’s fighters to quickly move their locations and also to ensure that no American forces were nearby.

Sources from the network confirmed at the time that the American forces did not have to move because they were far enough away.

Regarding the latest raids announced by Moscow consecutively, Enab Baladi contacted the Free Syrian Army regarding each raid separately, and the local faction denied knowing about any bombing of the 55-kilometer area where its fighters are spread.

The faction’s media office told Enab Baladi that it had monitored exchanges about bombing that targeted the area on social media, but it had no knowledge of whether the bombing actually took place.

Enab Baladi also contacted the US Central Command (CENTCOM) for details, but its media office ignored the questions related to confirming or denying the actual occurrence of Russian air raids.

Enab Baladi was unable to reach the Russian Ministry of Defense for additional information about these raids.

Moscow’s messages to Washington

While the alleged Russian raids did not cause any significant damages for local or international parties, Rashid Hourani, a military affairs researcher at the Jusoor for Studies center, believes that the strikes might have actually occurred, but not with the frequency announced by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

He added that since 2022 Russia began to announce its targeting of Syrian opposition forces supported by the United States, such as the Revolution Commandos Army and later the Free Syrian Army or the al-Qaryatayn Martyrs Brigade operating east of Homs.

The researcher linked the escalation of targeting to American steps towards organizing and strengthening the al-Tanf factions, and trying to raise coordination between them and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The United States is making changes within the Free Syrian Army faction, having previously changed the faction’s leader twice over the past two years, and also conducted structural changes within the faction’s “military divisions,” as recently announced through its official Facebook page.

On February 29, the Free Syrian Army announced that it had made changes to its general command, appointing Colonel Salem Turki al-Antri as its new leader, concluding the mission of his predecessor Farid al-Qassem, which lasted 16 months.

Abd al-Razzaq al-Khader, spokesman for the media office of the Free Syrian Army, told Enab Baladi that the appointment of a new leader for the faction came routinely and had nothing to do with any dispute or problem.

Based on these changes, Hourani sees that Moscow is trying to send a message to Washington that it is able to disrupt American steps to enhance the military power of factions in eastern Syria.

It also attempts to besmirch the image of the opposition fighters by claiming it bombed “terrorists,” trying to deter the United States from dealing with them.

Proof of presence

The Russian movements in eastern Syria coincide with tensions in the region between Israel, backed by the United States, and Iran, allied with Russia, against the backdrop of events in Gaza, which resulted in repeated targeting of US bases in Syria by Iranian proxy factions in the region.

Russian political analyst Dmitry Bridzhe told Enab Baladi that Russia’s steps are part of Moscow’s ongoing attempts for months to strengthen its presence in the Middle East amid declining American popularity due to Washington’s support for Israel.

In addition to the above, Bridzhe believes that latent competition in Syria between the United States and Russia has recently intensified, especially since Syrian geography has turned into zones of influence that receive and send political messages.

Bridzhe did not rule out that the Russian targeting might be directed against the Islamic State organization, which has active cells in eastern Syria.

Portraying that the Islamic State is affiliated with al-Tanf

The Islamic State has a clear presence in eastern Syria, in the areas that Russia says it has repeatedly bombed, but through statements and media propaganda, Moscow and Washington share the same goal in fighting the organization, as the declared purpose of the al-Tanf base’s presence is to end the Islamic State organization’s activity in Syria and Iraq.

On December 15, 2023, the Islamic State published a picture showing the wreckage of a Russian reconnaissance drone downed in the Syrian desert near the city of al-Sukhnah in eastern Homs province.

The organization stated, according to its weekly magazine “Al-Naba,” that the reconnaissance plane fell west of al-Sukhnah city in eastern Syria during a reconnaissance mission.

The group added that its members burned the wreckage of the plane after finding it.

On the other hand, Russia does not cease to accuse the United States of training and equipping “terrorist” groups to carry out armed attacks inside Syria.

Within a report about the killing of soldiers from forces auxiliary to the Syrian regime’s army in the Syrian desert, on April 19, the Russian agency Sputnik said, “The 55-kilometer zone that the American forces take as their base on the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian borders, is where some militants of organizations such as remnants of ISIS and the Syrian Revolutionary Commandos and Ahrar al-Sharqiya and Ahmad al-Abdo Army and other organizations are situated.”

The agency linked the attack on these forces by the Islamic State to the repeated Russian raids near al-Tanf.


النسخة العربية من المقال

Related Articles

  1. What is al-Tanf garrison, where a drone strike killed three US soldiers? 
  2. Bombing US garrison at al-Tanf is a Russian warning, not only a “message”
  3. US AFCENT to Enab Baladi: Russia carrying out “aggressive” maneuvers in Syria
  4. Commander of Free Syrian Army to Enab Baladi: We are open to dialogue with everyone

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support