Military tensions on Syria’s borders with Iraq, Jordan and Syria jumped another notch Monday, May 21, on Day 2 of Donald Trump’s foreign trip, with the arrival of the first Russian ground troops in southern Syria for taking up position opposite US and coalition elite units.
debkafile’s military sources report that, as the US president was preparing to cap his two hectic days in the Saudi capital with a major speech on Islam, before flying to Jerusalem, a Russian contingent of paratroops and special forces arrived at Suweida. It linked up with the Syrian army, Hizballah and other pro-Iranian allies already poised to take on the US, Jordanian, British and Norwegian elite units for control of the strategic 600km long Syrian-Iraqi border and its key crossings.
Our sources that the paratroops were detached for their new mission from the 31s Russian Brigade stationed in Syria, together with Spetsnaz fighters.
They are the first ground troops Moscow has sent to southern Syria, where hitherto Russian operations were limited to infrequent air strikes..
According to Syrian military sources, the Russian troops are only there to train and direct the Syrian army units fighting in this part of Syria. This claim echoed the American contention that its special forces were in the same region, in support of the rebel Syrian Free Army which they had trained in Jordan.
Nonetheless, positioned virtually nose to nose at this moment are American and Russian troops. Both stand behind opposing forces vying for control of Syria’s border with Iraq and the key crossing of Al-Tanf which is located in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle.
The United States and Trump administration are resolved to keep this prize from falling into the hands of Iran and its Shiite militias to further its scheme for opening up Tehran’s land routes to Syria and the Mediterranean. Moscow, by its new deployment Sunday, signaled that it was equally set on backing the Syrian-Iranian military bid to thwart Washington’s plan.
Saturday, as debkafile reported, the Syrian-pro-Iranian-Hizballah force in southern Syria renewed its advance on the Iraqi border, two days after sustaining heavy casualties from a US air strike on its convoys. Syrian military sources reported they captured the Suweida region and another 60 square kilometers. This brought them closer to the strategic Al-Tanf crossing at the Syrian border intersection with Iraq and Jordan, which is held by US and other special operations units.
The arrival Sunday of Russian ground troops to this hotly-contested region offers an acid test for Donald Trump’s assurance to the Saudi royals and Gulf Arab rulers of his administration’s resolve to rein in Iran’s military charge through the Middle East, along with Hizballah, and relegate to the past their depredations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
The success of the US-led military operation to take and hold the Syrian-Iraqi border will give Trump’s policy high kudos. But a battleground defeat at the hands of Russian-Iranian backed Syrian and Hizballah troops would seriously dim the gains of his Middle East trip.