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US under pressure as Russia, Syria step up efforts to counter occupying US troops: NYT

In this frame grab from video, people and soldiers gathering next to an American military convoy stuck in the village of Khirbet Ammu, east of Qamishli city, Syria, on February 12, 2020. (Photo by AP)

US troops occupying parts of northeastern Syria have come under increasing pressure as Russia and Syria step up their military presence in the region, according to the New York Times.

The US daily reported that American military and diplomatic officials have said that Russia has been intensifying patrol “run-ins” with US troops and that Russian helicopters are flying closer to US troops as part of an “intensifying pressure campaign”.

According to the report, a notable presence of Syrian and Russian drones and other aircraft in the region has also “eroded American air superiority” in the regions where US forces are present.

The report claimed that the Russian measures, alongside Syrian military presence, seek to “present a constant set of challenges” that will eventually make US military presence “more tenuous”.

The report quoted Vice Admiral Tim Szymanski, a Navy SEAL who is deputy head of the military’s Special Operations Command, saying that Russian and Damascus were effectively “pressing” US forces in northeast Syria.

Speaking with reporters last week, top American diplomat overseeing Syria issues James F. Jeffrey also said that run-ins and encounters with Russian and Syrian troops are “not daily occurrences but have been increasing in number and thus is troubling”.

Russian troops were formally invited to the Arab country by the Syrian government in 2015 and - alongside Iranian military advisers – allowed Damascus to gradually push back foreign-backed terrorists which had ravaged the country since 2011.

Washington, however, illegally deployed troops to the country on the pretext of fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Despite Daesh currently having no significant presence in the country, the Trump administration announced October last year that it was keeping hundreds of troops in northeastern Syria, where a large portion of Syria’s oilfields is situated.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that Washington seeks to profit off of Syria’s oil reserves.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” Trump said in October.

According to Washington’s 2012 budget proposal introduced earlier this week, the Trump administration seeks to allocate $200 million to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which currently control the oil fields in northeastern Syria.

Observers have noted that the sum may be related to oil-related transactions involving the US-backed SDF forces.

US fears endgame as terrorists are routed in Idlib

In its Friday report, the NYT said that US officials fear that ongoing run-ins between US troops and Damascus-led forces could escalate once Syria concludes its anti-terror military campaign in the Idlib province, the last terrorist stronghold in the country.  

US occupation of Syrian oil fields comes as Damascus is in great need of its major oil deposits in order to address its energy needs and rebuild the country amid crippling Western sanctions.

Speaking in November, head of the US military’s Central Command, General McKenzie, said that he would “expect at some point” that the Syrian government “will come forward to that ground”.

Tensions have, however, already turned tense with US troops killing a Syrian civilian after Syrian troops stopped a US military patrol east of Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli earlier this week.

Syrian locals, who had gathered to express their opposition to US presence, attacked and pelted the military vehicles in response.

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