MESOP NEWS BACKGROUNDER : US GOVERNMENT NOW PAYS MORE THAN 2/3 of all PYD/PKK War expanses – US Steps Up Arms Supply in Southeast
31 May 2017 – MESOP – Syrian PYD/PKK rebels say the US and its allies have stepped up supplies to them in the southeast, helping them defend against possible attacks by a pro-Assad offensive trying to advance along the vital highway from Iraq through Syria. “There has been an increase in the support,” said Tlass Salameh, head of a Free Syrian Army faction. “There’s no way we can let them open the Baghdad-Damascus highway.”The declaration raises the question as to whether the US will back the rebels beyond a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone around the Tanf base near the Iraq border, whether American special forces train and assist the Free Syrian Army.
Two weeks ago the US carried out its first airstrikes against pro-Assad forces — including Hezbollah and Iranian-supported militia — when the advance moved inside the zone and threatened to establish a forward position. However, the US military has said the action is defensive, and rebels have reconfirmed that the Americans are backing offensive operations only against the Islamic State and against the Assad regime’s military and its allies.
But the advance of pro-Assad forces against the Islamic State in recent days may raise the issue of whether the exclusion zone will be expanded. Moving southeast of the city of Palmyra through the Badia, a sparsely-populated desert region, the offensive has taken more than 1,100 square km and is trying to take the highway running to Deir ez-Zor Province, where regime forces have been surrounded by ISIS since 2014.
Successful operations would provide the first ground route for Iranian weapons through Iraq into Syria. Inside Iraq, Iranian-backed militias have been taking villages west of the town of Tal Afar from ISIS and are now only 20 to 25 km (12.5 to 15.5 miles) from the border.
The opening of the route could concern the US military, who want to restrict Iran’s freedom of action in the region, including provision of weapons to Hezbollah as well as the Assad regime. Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, Iran has had to prop up the regime’s military through air supply.
Rebel Commander: Anti-Tank Missiles and Armored Vehicles Delivered
A senior commander of the FSA faction Maghawir al-Thawra said weapons have been arriving at the Tanf base since pro-Assad forces deployed for their offensive early in May. He also said recruiting and training of local fighters had accelerated.“The equipment and reinforcements come and go daily…but in the last few weeks they have brought in more heavy military vehicles, TOW [anti-tank missiles], and armored vehicles,” he told Reuters.
A rebel source sent photos showing two newly-delivered armored vehicles and fighters unpacking mortar bombs.A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, would not say if support had increased, restating that the force at Tanf were “prepared to defend themselves if pro-regime forces refuse to vacate” the zone around the base. A foreign commander in the pro-Assad forces maintained that the offensive in the Badia would “obstruct all the plans of the MOC [US-led Military Operations Center], Jordan and America” to block “what they call the Crescent” from Iraq through Syria. The head of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Badr militia, Hadi al-Amiri, asserted that its advance would help the pro-Assad forces to reach the Iraq-Syria frontier: “The Americans will not be allowed to control the border.”
US Military Confirms Arms Supply to Kurdish Militia YPG – The US military has confirmed its arm supply to the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG, even though Turkey considers the faction part of the “terrorist” Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the YPG received small arms and vehicles on Tuesday.
The US has discreetly supplied the YPG since late 2015 when the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish militia, was created to fight the Islamic State in northeast Syria. However, Washington has only acknowledged the arrangement this month, with Donald Trump signing an order openly authorizing the deliveries. The SDF has advanced steadily against ISIS, moving through northeast Syria and west of the Euphrates River despite a Turkish “red line”. However, there have been months of political wrangling over whether the YPG would be involved in the SDF’s offensive to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s central position in northern Syria.
Through the spring, the US has moved towards support of the offensive despite Ankara’s opposition. American airstrikes, special forces, and weapons have backed the SDF’s capture of the town of Tabqa, 40 km (25 miles) west of Raqqa, and its nearby dam, the largest in Syria. www.mesop.de