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US mulling military options against Russia in Syria, irked by Iran ties

The file photo shows a Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea to conduct flight operations.

The US is considering military options to address “Russian aggression in the skies over Syria,” an unnamed Pentagon official has declared, further voicing rising concerns about “growing ties between Iran, Russia and Syria across the Middle East.”

“The Russian military activity, which has increased in frequency and aggression since March, stems from growing cooperation and coordination between Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian government to try to pressure the US to leave Syria,” said an American “senior defense official” who spoke on condition of anonymity as cited in an AP report on Saturday.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters on Friday, he further threatened increased deployment of US F-16 fighter jets to the Persian Gulf in a purported effort to “protect ships” around the strategic Strait of Hormuz from what he claimed as “Iranian seizures,” in a apparent referral to the recent confiscation of a foreign oil tanker smuggling the country's fuel by Iranian naval officers despite attempts by US military forces to intervene.

The United States made “unprofessional and risky” attempts to impede the seizure of a foreign oil tanker smuggling Iranian fuel in the Persian Gulf last week, but the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully confiscated the vessel, an IRGC commander announced on July 10.

According to IRGC’s Rear Admiral Ramazan Zir-Rahi, the vessel carrying contraband fuel had arranged military backing from US military forces in the area, but was still seized by Iran’s naval forces.

He further elaborated that the US Navy attempted to intervene as IRGC naval forces moved in to intercept the oil tanker involved in smuggling one million liters of Iranian oil and gas. 

“On July 6, the forces of the IRGC's second naval zone were inspecting a vessel with the commercial name of NADA 2 that was involved in the organized smuggling of the Islamic Republic’s oil and gas in the Persian Gulf, when the Americans started a series of unprofessional and risky actions in order to prevent this legal measure,” he said.

According to the AP report, the unnamed American official went on to further claim that “Russia is beholden to Iran for its support in the war in Ukraine, and Tehran wants the US out of Syria” to extend aid to Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement “and threaten Israel.”

“US has seen more cooperation, collaboration, planning and intelligence sharing, largely between mid-level Russian and Iranian Quds force leaders in Syria, to pressure the US to remove troops from Syria,” the official also claimed as cited in the report.

Such claims by Washington officials come as the US military is illegally occupying Syria with nearly 1,000 troops and has seized the country’s oil fields in cooperation with local anti-Damascus militants and terrorist groups while stealing its crude supplies and transferring them across the border to its bases in Iraq.

The report also cited the official as falsely claiming that US forces are in Syria for “monitoring” activity of the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group.

He went on to complain that a Russian aircraft on Friday flew repeatedly over the US-occupied at-Tanf garrison in eastern Syria, “where US forces are training Syrian allies,” referring to local Kurdish and Arab militants that have been engaged for years in a brutal terror campaign across the country.

The official insisted that the Russian An-30 aircraft “was collecting intelligence on the base.”

Earlier this month, US Air Forces Central commander Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich claimed that Russian fighter jets “harassed” American MQ-9 Reaper drones over Syria on three separate occasions in a week. The Russian Air Force was conducting joint exercises with its Syrian counterpart at the time, and Moscow blamed the US for violating restricted airspace with the drone flights, a charge that the Pentagon rejected.

This is while Syrian President Bashar Assad invited the Russian military to assist his forces in the fight against US-trained Daesh-linked terrorists in 2015. Russia has maintained a military presence in Syria ever since, as has the US, which has been providing covert and overt support for dozens of militant groups opposing Assad’s government in their terror campaign to topple the elected president.

Since 2014, the US has deployed forces and military equipment in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate under the pretext of fighting the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

The American forces have thus far sustained their illegal presence on the Syrian soil although Damascus and its allies defeated Daesh in late 2019.

The US military claims its presence in Syria is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh.

Damascus, however, maintains the deployment is meant to plunder the country’s natural resources. Former President Donald Trump of the United States admitted on several occasions that American forces were in the Arab country for its oil wealth.

Russia, alongside Iran, has assisted Syrian forces in battles across the conflict-plagued country, mainly by providing aerial support to ground operations against foreign-backed terrorists.

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