U.S. warns Iran-backed forces: ‘Immediately’ leave ‘deconfliction zone’ in Syria

by WorldTribune Staff, June 2, 2017

The United States has warned Iran-backed militia fighters to leave a so-called “deconfliction zone” in southern Syria where U.S. troops are garrisoned.

U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State (ISIS), estimated that a small number of Iran-backed forces had remained inside the zone that was set up to ensure the safety of U.S.-led coalition forces, Reuters reported on June 1.

A copy of leaflets, with English-language translation, that were dropped by the U.S. military in southern Syria in recent days to advise Iran-backed forces to depart an area near a garrison used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces. / U.S. Defense Department Handout / Reuters

The U.S. military dropped about 90,000 leaflets this week warning the Iran-backed fighters inside the zone to get out, a U.S. official said.

A copy of the leaflets provided to Reuters by the Pentagon told the fighters that any movement toward the At Tanf garrison “will be seen as hostile intent and we will defend our forces.”

“You are within an established deconfliction zone, leave the area immediately,” another leaflet read.

Meanwhile, the report said, a larger number of forces had been massing directly outside the zone, which was agreed on between the United States and Russia.

“We see that as a threat,” Dillon said.

Dillon added that “we have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by” pro-Assad regime forces.

This southeastern area of the Syrian desert, known as the Badia, has become an important front in Syria’s civil war between Assad, backed by Iran and Shi’ite militias, and rebels seeking to oust him, the report said.

They are competing to capture land held by ISIS, which is said to be retreating as it comes under intense attack in Iraq and along Syria’s Euphrates basin.

Western-backed Syrian rebels said on May 31 that Russian jets attacked them as they tried to advance against Iran-backed militias.

U.S.-backed rebels took Tanf from ISIS last year, and regional intelligence sources say they mean to use it as a launchpad to capture Bukamal, a town on Syria’s border with Iraq and an important jihadist supply route, the report said.

The coalition’s presence in Tanf, on the Damascus-Baghdad highway, was also meant to stop Iran-backed groups from opening an overland route between Iraq and Syria, sources told Reuters.

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