US Marines deploy to Syria for live fire exercise
10 September 2018
In a sign of the imminent escalation of the Syrian war, over 100 US Marines flew into the country late Friday to participate in live fire exercises. The drill, which included air strikes and artillery fire, was intended as a warning shot at Russia as Moscow prepares to back a government offensive against Islamist militias in the province of Idlib.
According to two Pentagon officials, the Marines flew by assault helicopter to the al-Tanf military base in southeastern Syria near the Iraq border. The area, which the US military has illegally occupied, has been used by the American forces to train anti-Assad Islamist militias and commands a strategically important position due to the substantial oil reserves located in eastern Syria.
The officials said that the military exercise was launched after Russia made contact with US forces twice over the past week via a deconfliction hotline to request authorization to attack ISIS terrorists operating within a unilaterally imposed 35-mile exclusion zone around the US base. Both requests were rejected.
General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the provocative move was designed to send a message “to anyone who’s looking.” “There’s a significant amount of reinforcement capability, both the forces that went in there for exercises as well as air support, should our forces at al Tanf need it,” he added.
Dunford also warned that top US commanders are in regular contact with President Donald Trump to provide him with updates on American preparations for a military strike in the event Syrian government forces launch a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. In what amounted to an open invitation to the Islamists in…