DEBKAfile Special Report September 8, 2017
While Israeli jets were bombing the Syrian CERS chemical facility at Masyaf, 38km west of the central Syrian town of Hama, early Thursday, Sept 7, control of the Syrian-Iraqi border to the east was quietly changing hands.
DEBKAfile tracks the ongoing process:
Washington was winding up discussions with Moscow on terms for US special forces to evacuate the Al Tanf post they were holding in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian triangle and hand it over to the Syrian army.
Quitting Al Tanf is tantamount to the US withdrawal from southeastern Syria and its handover to Syria and its allies, including Hizballah.
US-backed Syrian rebel units are also about to leave their posts in the southern town of Daraa, having completed negotiations for a deal with the Russian officers manning this de-escalation zone and Hizballah officers. They have agreed to hand in their weapons and either join up with Syrian government units or disperse.. For the first time in the Syrian civil war, Hizballah announced an important development in the name of Russia.
Units of Tehran’s Iraqi surrogate, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Thursday night began crossing the border and taking up positions in southeastern Syria. The PMU, although formally integrated in the Iraqi national army, takes its orders from Iran’s supreme Middle East commander, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Early Friday, Sept. 8, Damascus issued a warning to the US and Kurdish forces fighting to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State, not to continue southeast towards the ISIS stronghold at Abu Kamal. This was the announcement: “The Syrian Army High Command views the liberation of the Deir Ez-Zour border city of Abu Kamal as an imperative military endeavor that cannot be dictated by the US Coalition and their allies.”
The connotation of this Syrian announcement is obvious: With the way clear for Syrian and Hizballah troops to move into the al-Tanf post, only Abu Kamal remains to be captured for them to achieve full command of all 600km of the Syrian-Iraqi border. Tehran’s key strategic objective of an open land corridor through Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean will then be in the bag.
Thursday night, Israel’s Defense Mnister Avigdor Lieberman, while ducking confirmation of the Israeli air strike in Masyaf, affirmed instead: “We shall not allow the formation of a Shiite corridor from Iran to Lebanon.”
He was followed by Israeli Military Intelligence (AMAN) commander Maj. Gen. Hertzi Levy, who said “We are dealing resolutely with the threats against us.”
Unfortunately, neither of these declarations appears to correlate with the real events unfolding nearby in southeastern Syria. Predominantly hostile powers are carving out new, strategic facts in that region, which pose great harm to Israel’s national security.