US Asymmetry for Iran on Syria’s Borders: Open Gate to Lebanon. No Entry to Iraq

The Trump administration is coming at Iran on Syria’s inflammatory borders from two opposite directions, depending on whether it is the east or the west. This asymmetry is illustrated by two separate events this week:
On Monday, Aug. 7, the Americans drove away one of Iran’s Iraqi Shiite militias, when it moved too close to the Al Tanf border post, which is held by US and coalition special forces in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle..
According to the Sayyed al-Shuhada militia, which is part of the Iran-ruled Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), US forces killed dozens of their number in a deliberate attack with “smart bombs.”
“We declare that this action will not pass unpunished,” a militia spokesman said. ”We call for the protection of the Iraqi-Syrian border and the prevention of American exploitation of those borders for their own agenda.”
A US-led coalition spokesman immediately denied any involvement in the attack.
Nevertheless, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources confirm that it did take place. It became necessary when the Sayyed al-Shuhada militia were sighted on the move towards the US garrison at Al Tanf. The militia had come from a base established outside the Iraqi town of Ar-Rutbah in Anbar province within jumping-off distance from the US position.
The pretext for that – and previous – pro-Iranian forays against the US garrison was an operation against the Islamic State.
On June 18, a US warplane shot down a Syrian army jet in the southern Raqqa countryside. Washington said the strike took place because the Syrians were attacking US-backed forces. Damascus countered that its jet was only targeting ISIS terrorists, and accused the Americans of a “flagrant attack to undermine the efforts of the only force capable of fighting terrorism…”
Then too, the Syrian army and pro-Iranian militias were quietly clearing a path to Al Tanf – this time from inside Syria.
It must be obvious to Tehran by now that the Americans are standing fast against all attempts by its Shiite proxies or the Syrian army to grab sections of the Syrian-Iraqi border – whether from the Iraqi side to the east or the Syrian side to the west. US military chiefs were keeping a close eye on the Shiite proxies Iran has been massing in Anbar in the past month. They suspected that these forces were less focused on fighting ISIS than on creeping up to the Syrian border. US forces therefore stood ready to block their approach.
But on Syria’s western border with Lebanon, the opposite picture has taken shape.
The Americans, while standing foursquare against pro-Iranian forces touching the border with Iraq, have opened the door in the west for the Syrian army and the Iranian-backed Hizballah to take over the Syrian-Lebanese border region.
And not just an open door; the US is actually involved in the joint Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah drive currently underway this month to seize control of that border, here too, under cover of a cleanout of jihadists elements.
Indeed, as debkafile first revealed exclusively on Monday, Aug. 7, US special forces are actively attached to the Lebanese army special forces fighting alongside the Syrian army and Hizballah.
By week’s end, the contours of the Trump administration’s apparently contradictory policies were emerging.
While refusing to give Iran, Syria and Hizballah an inch on the eastern border with Iraq, Washington is making Tehran a gift of the western border with Lebanon.
This picture fits neatly into the secret deal Barack Obama struck with Vladimir Putin in September 2015 for drawing a line on the Euphrates River as a boundary for dividing the country into the eastern region under American influence and the west under Russian control. The borders were included in that deal
Moscow recently extended this arrangement, with Washington’s concurrence, to allow Russian military forces to take up positions in the de-escalation zones the two powers agreed to set up along Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

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