By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – June 9, 2017
The US has carried out its third airstrike, and its second in three days, against pro-Assad units in eastern Syria.US warplanes fired on three technical vehicles on Thursday, maintaining a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone around a Free Syrian Army base where US special forces are present.
Two US officials confirmed the strike about 24 miles from the Tanf base near the Iraqi border.The US military carried out the first strike last month against a pro-regime convoy, including Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi militia, trying to establish a forward position. It subsequently dropped leaflets warning against any further attempt to move inside the zone.
The US military also said that it downed an Iranian drone, which was armed and firing on “coalition forces carrying out a patrol”. The US-led coalition’s spokesman, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said that the drone “hit dirt”, causing no injuries or damage, but added: “This clearly showed a threat even if it were a warning shot; it was something that showed a hostile intent, a hostile action and posed a threat to our forces because this drone still had munitions that were still on it.”
The prospect of a confrontation between the foreign-led, pro-Assad forces and the US-supported Free Syrian Army has grown this spring, after the FSA and then the regime and its allies took large areas of the sparsely-populated Baida region in eastern Syria from the Islamic State.The US has insisted that the Free Syrian Army only fight the Islamic State and not pro-Assad units. However, Washington is concerned that a further advance by Iranian-led militia, accompanied by a parallel push against the Islamic State on the Iraqi side of the border, will establish Iran’s first ground supply line into Syria.On Thursday, US spokesman Dillon tried to return attention to the Islamic State, “Unfortunately, there have been (these) incidents that have taken our focus away from fighting ISIS.”