In what the Syrian Army General Command called a “turning point” in the conflict, the Syrian army and allied forces reached the border with Iraq on Friday, where for the last several weeks they have attempted to link up with allied fighters in the neighboring country.
“This achievement constitutes a strategic turning point in the war on terror and a base for expanding the military operation in the desert and across the borders with Iraq and to tighten the noose on what’s left of the IS terror groups,” the General Command said in a statement.
The statement also spoke of the risks of continued attacks by the U.S. and U.S.-trained rebels on Syrian military positions, warning they hinder advances against the Islamic State.
On three separate occasions in the last 30 days, American warplanes struck Syrian-allied militias maneuvering near the border crossing in the town of al-Tanf. This time, the fighters avoided the U.S.-held area near the town and successfully reached the border with Iraq.
In addition to the strikes, the U.S. has also been boosting its military presence in Southern Syria to deal with what U.S. officials call a “threat” from Shi’ite militias allied with Assad, who, by all accounts, are conducting operations against the Islamic State, not the U.S.
The United States currently occupies Syria illegally, without consent of the country’s elected government.
In a call with Secretary of State Tillerson on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Russia saw the recent spate of American attacks on Syrian forces as unacceptable, insisting the U.S. take steps to prevent further clashes.
“Lavrov expressed his categorical disagreement with the U.S. strikes on pro-government forces and called on him to take concrete measures to prevent similar incidents in future,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The two officials also reportedly recognized a mutual desire to step up cooperation to end the conflict in Syria. Russia is an ally to the Assad government and has been a direct party to the conflict since 2015.
Emboldened by the successes on the Syrian-Iraqi border, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has intensified operations against ISIS in the Palmyra countryside, capturing areas east of the city and launching assaults in an area near the village of Arak. The SAA hopes to soon take Sukhna, a strategic town located on the road to Deir Ezzor.
Last week the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic force led by American-armed Kurdish militiamen, launched its operation to liberate the ISIS capital city of Raqqah. SAA forces are also advancing across Raqqah Province, but it is unclear when they will be able to reach the city.
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