Analysis: How the U.S. army turned the tide in Syria

By unleashing military power in Syria last month,Trump is sending a clear message to Putin, Iran and Assad's forces that Obama is gone.

Tags: Syria US Army
Yochanan Visser ,

Khamenei and Putin
Khamenei and Putin

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva

“The Syrian war is now threatening world peace” I wrote in an analysis of events which occurred in Syria during February.

One of these events was a massive American attack on the Russian and Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition near the east-Syrian city of Deir Ez-Zur.

“More than 300 'Syrian' soldiers, among them dozens of Russian mercenaries, died in a spate of U.S. airstrikes which involved the use of F-15 and F-22 fighter jets as well as Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships, UAV's and artillery fire,” Arutz 7 reported on February 15.

Ever since, much disinformation has been released supporting the claim that at least 218 Russian mercenaries belonging to the Kremlin-linked ‘Wagner’ military contractor, dubbed “Putin’s secret army,” died during the battle in east-Syria.

One video, widely circulated on social media and used by Newsweek among others, contained alleged telephone recordings of Russian mercenaries after U.S. airstrikes on a military convoy that was attacking a base that served as home to U.S. Special Forces in Syria and soldiers of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In reality, however, those recordings were made after a battle in Ukraine, Russians living in Israel told me.

The BBC has now confirmed that at least several dozens of Russian and ex-Soviet Union citizens were killed in Deir Ez-Zur on February 7.

The British broadcaster cited a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry which said that an additional number of serious injured Russian mercenaries were still in hospital to undergo treatment for the wounds they sustained..

We will probably never know the truth about the exact number of Russians who died in Deir ez-Zur in the Syrian desert on February 7.

France 24, for example, spoke to a Russian paramilitary chief who insisted there were at least 218 Russians among the dead with 150 bodies held in a refridgerator at a base in southern Russia. He also suggested that Putin is withholding the information on their deaths until after the Russian elections.

The media including Reuters and Bloomberg, however, were wrong by focusing on the Russian role in the attack.

By ignoring other issues which shed more light on what was taking place on the banks of Euphrates river that day - and the previous month, the media missed important facts which showed that the initial event was a Russian-backed Iranian attempt to undermine the new United States strategy for Syria.

The countdown to the massacre in Deir ez-Zur began in early January when a Russian-built bridge across the Euphrates river was destroyed by partly opening the Tabqa Dam.

This was done by the SDF and U.S. Special Forces to send a message to the pro-Assad coalition, saying don’t mess up with our new strategy in eastern Syria and don’t try to take over the oil-rich eastern bank of the Euphrates river.

It didn’t help, however, and on February 7 the pro-Assad coalition, or should we say Iran’s proxies, began staging a prolonged attack on the SDF base.

On Friday, the German magazine Der Spiegel revealed that the majority of the force (approx. 500 fighters) which attacked the Americans and their allies in Deir ez-Zur was made up of Iranian-backed militias.

Der Spiegel sent a team of journalists to the Deir ez-Zur region who reported no Russian mercenaries participated in the attack and that it was the Iranians who commanded the action.

Here’s what Der Spiegel wrote:

“At 5 a.m. on Feb. 7th, approximately 250 fighters south of Deir ez-Zor attempted to cross from the west bank of the Euphrates to the east using a military pontoon bridge. They included members of the militias of two tribes, the Bekara and the Albo Hamad, who are fighting for Assad's regime with Iranian backing, soldiers of the 4th Division as well as Afghan and Iraqi fighters with the Fatimiyoun and Zainabiyoun brigades, which are under Iranian command.”

The Liwa Zainabiyoun is a brigade composed of Shia Pakistanis living in Iran while the Liwa Fatimiyoun is an Afghan Shia militia trained and equipped by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps led by general Qassem Soleimani.

The 5 a.m. attack was the second attempt to cross via a pontoon bridge, an earlier attempt was foiled by the Americans and their allies.

After launching the assault, a third attack on the SDF/U.S. base in the village of Khusham was carried out by a group of Shiite fighters coming from the south.

What happened next was not a Russian attack on the U.S. Special Forces, as some have tried to point out, but an American attempt to enforce its new policy in eastern Syria. This policy is aimed at preventing Iran from completing the land corridor it has been building during the war against ISIS.

The massive fire power used by the U.S. in the counter attack, which took place in a so-called de-confliction zone, suggests the Trump Administration wanted to make it clear that there’s a new sheriff in the Syrian desert. Possibly, a number of Russians were killed on their bases during the assault.

“They deployed rocket-equipped drones, combat helicopters, heavy AC 130 aircraft, nicknamed "gun boats," to fire on targets on the ground, rockets and ground artillery,” according to Der Spiegel.

The devastating attack made ‘minced meat’ of the Shiite fighters, others said,while Der Spiegel used the word “inferno” to describe the devastation caused by the U.S. attack.

By unleashing its military power in eastern Syria on February 7th CENTCOM, the U.S. central command in the Middle East, felled two birds with one stone.

It not only made clear to Iran that the Trump Administration will enforce its new policy toward the Islamic Republic and its red lines in Syria, but also sent a message to the Russians.

The United States will defend the SDF controlled territories in eastern Syria, which are home to a large part of Syria’s energy resources, as its own territor,y even if that means risking a confrontation with the Russian military.

By the show of force near Deir ez-Zur on Febr. 7th the U.S. also restored part of its lost clout in Syria and made it clear to Putin that the days of taking advantage of the disarray and power vacuum caused by the policies of the Obama Administration in the Middle East are over.