It looks like the US is heading towards a direct conflict with its Cold War adversary.
According to reports, Russian backed Syrian troops are on a direct collision course with Western Special Forces after advancing towards a U.S. training base in the East of Syria over the weekend.
The Syrian government troops led by Iranian forces are within 15 miles of a fortified base for American and British special forces that has been used to train Syrian rebel groups.
The Telegraph reports:
Pro-government soldiers are now within 15 miles of al-Tanf – a heavily fortified hub for American and British special forces training Syrian rebel groups, which are fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) near the Iraqi border.
The assault is being led by Iranian forces, which are commanding Syrian troops and a number of Lebanese Hizbollah fighters with the help of Russian jets in the skies.
The Syrian army has been alarmed by two months of Free Syrian Army (FSA) advances against Isil that allowed the rebels to secure a large swathe of sparsely populated territory stretching from south east of Damascus all the way to the borders with Iraq and Jordan.
Syrian forces have in recent days moved tanks and surface-to-air missiles closer to the eastern frontline with the moderate FSA units in an apparent warning to the US-led coalition, which flies sorties against Isil in the area.
“The Iranians are the ones promoting their movement towards al-Tanf, using the slogan Fighting The Grand Satan i.e. the US and the international coalition,” Mozahem al-Saloum, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army brigade at the base, told the Telegraph.
The area is strategically important for the government and its allies.
Capturing the road all the way to the Tanf base would re-establish the regime’s link with ally Iraq in the south.
The Damascus-Baghdad highway was a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria until Isil seized large territory along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
The Syrian army is also keen to be the first to arrive and seize control of Isil-held Deir Ezzor, north of Tanf, which is home to Syria’s biggest oil deposit.
The US has sent a clear message that any government advance towards their base will not be accepted. However, it is unclear how the special forces will react to any serious provocation.