US flexes strength in northeastern Syria by intercepting Russian military convoy | June 4th, 2020
Local sources say this is not the first such incident.
WASHINGTON – A US military patrol has prevented a Russian military convoy from entering an important road in northeastern Syria, local sources say. The incident took place amid growing tensions between the two sides.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war with the help of on-site observers, said on Tuesday that the US military prevented Russian military equipment from using the main road between two Kurdish-controlled cities in northeastern Syria..
The Russian convoy tried to drive to the border crossing point between Syria and Iraq, which is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), human rights activists said.
When the Turkish military and allied Syrian militias launched an offensive against the SDF in October 2019, and the United States withdrew troops from parts of the Syrian-Turkish border, Russia, as a staunch supporter of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, increased its military presence in the north-east of the country..
Following increased pressure from Congress and foreign allies of the United States, President Donald Trump decided to retain about 500 American troops to protect the region’s oil fields and prevent Islamic State and Syrian government forces from accessing them..
Both the US and Russia now have military outposts in the region.
The incident on Tuesday fits into a series of similar incidents that have occurred in recent days between the two powers over their presence in Syria, local sources say..
“This is the third incident in a week,” says local journalist Nishan Mohammad, who claims to have witnessed another recent standoff between US and Russian forces in northeastern Syria..
“I was there last weekend when American soldiers stopped Russian military vehicles and forced them to return to base,” he told Voice of America by telephone on Tuesday..
Apparently, the US wants to limit the Russian presence in some areas in northeastern Syria, suggests Mohammad.
SDS representatives contacted by Voice of America declined to comment on the topic, citing its delicacy.
US and Russian officials have not yet responded to recent events.
Given that Syrian forces now control most of the territory once held by militants, experts believe that recent Russian moves in northeastern Syria are an attempt to restore the Syrian government’s power in the region..
“Russia is unequivocally aimed at restoring regime power in the Kurdish region,” says Syria expert Radwan Badini, who teaches journalism and politics at Salahaddin University in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan..
He told Voice of America that such provocations by Russia would not bring any beneficial results for Moscow, since northeastern Syria is of strategic importance for the United States in its ongoing war with the Islamic State.