The six-year cold peace that the US and Iran have operationally maintained in Syria could be approaching an end as their rival strategies collide in the east and south of Syria.This silent truce between US and Iran effectively broke on May 18 when the US-led coalition carried out its first airstrike against an Iranian proxy group near the base of Al Tanf, close to Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan.
The base hosts US advisers and local forces that Washington is training in its battle to take back Daesh-held territory. But the strike, experts agreed, is a harbinger of a period of more confrontation between US and Iran as their agendas seem bound to clash in a post-Daesh Syria.
In a briefing from the US Defense Department on Wednesday, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian defined the May 18 strike as a move to protect pro-US forces. “First thing I would say is I’m concerned about any threat to our forces on the ground,” he said.
Harrigian did not apologize or shy away from further action against Iranian proxies if they become a threat to the US-trained forces. “I’m just going to reiterate the fact that we will protect our forces… we will do what it takes to ensure that our ground forces, if they’re threatened, we’re going to take the necessary action,” he said.