Russia and Iran Battle to Build Bases in Syria as Islamic State Falls

World | July 19, 2017, Wednesday // 11:52|  views

Three of the leading international powers involved in Syria's war—the U.S., Russia and Iran—are looking to expand and fortify their military presence in the country by building and upgrading foreign bases, with some already in the works, according to NewsWeek.

U.S. special operations forces have been involved in Syria for years, and the U.S. appears to be broadening the platforms from which it operates. Earlier this month, satellite imagery showed what appeared to be the construction of a new airstrip near Syria's southern border with Jordan and Iraq, according to The Daily Beast. This base, along with other "temporary" installations, reportedly could be used to both battle the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and bolster forces of the rebel Free Syrian Army in areas where fighters supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are poised to take over. Meanwhile, Assad allies Russia and Iran have announced plans to develop their own military presence in the country.

The Pentagon, however, has been hesitant to comment on its intentions to build new bases in Syria. The U.S.'s Florida-based Central Command told The Daily Beast last week it generally does not discuss such matters "for safety purposes," and its Kuwait-based, anti-ISIS operation called the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve gave Newsweek a similar response Tuesday.

"In order to ensure operational security and force protection, the Coalition will not announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria," Central Command told Newsweek in an email.

The U.S. has utilized temporary military installations to fight ISIS on two fronts. The primary theater supports the majority-Kurd Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa in northern Syria. To support local fighters here, U.S. forces have used an air base located about 90 miles north, near the city of Kobane. Expansions took place here in April, according to Stars and Stripes. On the second U.S.-backed front in Syria, special operations forces are training and assisting insurgents opposed to both ISIS and the Syrian government in the country's southeast, where satellites reportedly caught new installations near an already established U.S. outpost situated near the Syrian border town of al-Tanf.

Not far from the Russia-controlled Hmeymim airbase in Latakia, Assad may have also granted Iran its own naval military installation, according to a March report by the government-run Tass news agency. Iran announced last November it was considering establishing bases in Syria, Reuters reported.

Tehran is also believed to maintain a drone base not far from U.S. forces and their allies in al-Tanf, according to U.S. officials cited last month by NBC News. The alleged Iranian airstrip is reportedly the point of origin for unmanned aerial vehicles that the U.S. said breached its self-declared "deconfliction zone" surrounding its operations in al-Tanf, leading to airstrikes on pro-government forces.

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Tags: The Pentagon, ISIS, Iran, Russia, U.S., base, Assad, Jordan


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