London – As US and Russian officials resume their military and diplomatic talks in Oman in the next few days with an aim to establish a “safe zone” southern Syria, Washington continue protecting factions of the Free Syrian Army in al-Tanf near the border with Iraq and to support Democratic Syrian Forces (SDF) that are liberating Raqqa from ISIS, as part of the new strategy of President Donald Trump’s administration to infiltrate the “Iranian Crescent” in Syria.
A Western official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the US strikes launched in the past few days against Iranian militias loyal to Damascus were the first time the US army had defended opposition-controlled areas in the country.
Two weeks ago, coalition warplanes also hit a convoy of vehicles affiliated to the regime forces and Iran to prevent them from advancing towards al-Tanf military camp, which hosts opposition fighters in addition to American, British and Norwegian trainers.
The official added that Russian officials, who were negotiating at that time with their US counterparts in Oman about the establishment of “safe zones,” did not withdraw from the meeting, despite learning about the US attacks near al-Tanf.
The next round of talks between the two sides are expected to tackle the size of the safe zones, the local council, the monitors, human aids, in addition to Washington’s condition to “reject the presence of the Iranian militia in the area stretching from al-Qunaytara in Gholan to Deraa, the countryside of Suweyda’ – reaching al-Tanf.”
The official said that Washington, who had informed Moscow that the US accepted a Russian role in Syria if the Revolutionary Guards leave the area, wanted to test Moscow from the gate of South Syria.
In addition to supporting the battle to liberate Raqqa by increasing the Coalition assaults on the area Sunday, leaving tens of casualties, Washington started discussing the establishment of a civil council to administer Raqqa and to protect the Arab presence while keeping the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit away from Damascus and Tehran, according to the official.
He added that all the current US movements aim to penetrate the “Iranian Crescent” and to prevent the creation of a line linking Iran, Iraq, Syria and “Hezbollah” and to stop Iran’s ambitions from establishing a land corridor to the Mediterranean Sea.