WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – For the second day in a row, US officials denied charges from Syria’s state-run media and from Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), that the US-led coalition was responsible for air strikes targeting Syrian and PMF forces in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal.
“Neither the US nor the coalition carried out strikes near Albu Kamal,” Pentagon Spokesperson Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
The strikes occurred late on Sunday. The Pentagon denied the charge when it was first made, on Sunday night, and repeated the denial on Monday morning.
Indeed, Entifadh Qanbar, an Iraqi-American and President of the Future Foundation in Washington DC, told Kurdistan 24 that further attacks on those same troops had followed on Monday.
In light of the repeated US denials, Qanbar suggested that Israel was likely behind the air strikes.
On Sunday, at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that he had spoken over the past week with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Russian news agency TASS reported that Putin and Netanyahu had “discussed the situation in Syria in the context of joint efforts on ensuring security in the area of the Syrian-Israeli border.”
However, Netanyahu’s statement to his cabinet on Sunday went further than that.
“I reiterated our guiding principles regarding Syria” to the US and Russia, the Israeli press quoted Netanyahu as saying.
“First of all, Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria,” he stated.
“Second, we will take action—and are already taking action—against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies (emphasis added) in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.
The official Syrian news agency first reported that a US plane had attacked Syrian and PMF forces southeast of Albu Kamal on Sunday night.
Rankine-Galloway told Russia’s “Sputnik International” that no US or coalition planes had been involved, a statement he repeated to Kurdistan 24 on Monday morning.
On Monday, the PMF issued its own statement, claiming that US planes had struck the “fixed headquarters” of its 45th and 46th brigades, killing 22 fighters, as it demanded an explanation from the US.
Michael Pregent, an expert on Iraq at the Hudson Institute and formerly an adviser to senior US military officers in Iraq, stressed to Kurdistan 24 that the Iranian-backed militias had, in their statement of protest, confirmed their control of a significant border crossing point into Syria.
“This shows the permissive environment that the IRGC’s (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) al-Quds Force has put into place in Iraq and Syria,” Pregent said, facilitating the movement of men and materiel into Syria and Lebanon, from where they can threaten Israel.
Those who downplay the significance of an Iranian “land-bridge” to the Mediterranean have argued that it is not such a serious danger, as Israel can always attack it—which appears to be what happened.
As Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst of Kurdish affairs and currently a Fellow at Soran University, advised Kurdistan 24, “Given the US denials, Israel would be the first one that comes to mind” as being responsible the attack.
Israel has struck targets in Syria many times, particularly since 2011, when its civil war began. It is standard Israeli practice not to comment on such events.