Fears US-Iran tensions could spill over to Syria after shells hit near US base
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iran-backed and Syrian government forces on Sunday allegedly fired three shells at the Coco gas field in Deir al-Zor, where American and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are stationed, raising fears that the Iran-US tensions could negatively affect security in northeastern Syria.
The shelling did not cause any casualties, the news website Deir Ezzor 24 reported.
The US-led coalition has not yet confirmed the news.
#Breaking:— Omar Abu Layla (@OALD24) January 5, 2020
3 shells landed near Conoco field in the eastern #DeirEzzor countryside, without causing any casualties, it is indicated that the shelling came from Iran's militias and Assad's forces in the west of the Euphrates. https://t.co/EKyH9ODwf2
After US President Donald Trump’s decision in late October to leave between 500 to 600 American troops in Syria to protect oilfields, the SDF has continued joint operations with the US against Islamic State networks.
Kurdish officials in Syria are worried that a drone strike that killed Qasim Soleimani, head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, could negatively affect the security situation in Deir al-Zor.
Hekem Xelo, a member of the Council of Notables from the Autonomous Administration, told Kurdistan 24 the recent developments would “further complicate the situation in the region.”
“Instead of applauding someone’s death, we must know what will follow in our region and what we can do politically,” he added.
According to Xelo, Syrian Kurdish officials expect Iranian influence “to face limits in the future, both socially and militarily.”
The killing of Soleimani “was a message from the US to Iran, that, ‘if you cross the lines, we will intervene.’”
The expectation is that armed groups linked to Iran could carry out attacks against the SDF and US forces in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a delegation of Arab tribes met with Soleimani on Dec. 26 to discuss an attack on US forces in Syria.
According to a report from the Dar News Network, the Syrian government and Iranian advisors prepared a project called “National Resistance Against the American Occupation.”
As a result, attacks against SDF fighters, internal security forces, and sometimes civilians whose members are part of the SDF have increased in Deir al-Zor. While the Islamic State is often blamed, officials on the ground believe Iran and Damascus could be behind these attacks.
The officials in charge of the Syrian-Iranian project are allegedly Muhammad Al-Helu, the Sheikh of the Al-Adwan tribe, and Muhammad Al-Faris, the Sheikh of the Al-Tayy clan.
Iran-backed proxy groups are also expected to step up attacks in all areas where US forces are deployed, sources in the region claim.
Late last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Syrian TV a popular resistance would be formed against the American presence in Syria.
“The natural role of the state in this situation is to prepare the ground and provide all necessary backing to the popular resistance against the occupier,” he said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany