American troops and U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces plan to vacate the strategic military base in al-Tanf region along Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan, Iran’s Fars News Agency reports. Quoting an unidentified military official, F.N.A. adds that the U.S. military is seeking to hand over the base to a rebel group. It also referred to a report in a Jordanian newspaper which claimed the U.S. has decided to leave al-Tanf but has not yet set a withdrawal timetable. According to Fars, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), the American forces recently left al-Zakaf military outpost in southeast Syria after an agreement with Moscow.
Comment: Two days ago, the Russian media also reported that the U.S. forces are ready to leave al-Tanf base in the near future. But the report is not confirmed by the U.S. military or U.S.-backed rebel forces in Syria.
Earlier this month, the Iranian media reported that according to an agreement between the United States, Jordan, Russia and Syria, armed opposition groups will voluntarily leave eastern Damascus for Jordan, from where they will ultimately be transferred al-Hasakah Governorate in northeastern Syria, Fars News Agency reports. The report added that the second phase of the quadrilateral agreement involves the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including U.S. troops, from the al-Tanf region. The al-Tanf area will reportedly remain a demilitarized zone until the issue of refugees and internally displaced people are resolved. The border crossing will be under the control of the Syrian government, the report added.
The news, although unconfirmed, comes at a time when Iran and its allies have stepped up efforts to pressure the U.S. to leave the region. Both Tehran and Damascus see the presence of U.S. troops training rebel forces in al-Tanf as a serious threat. Iran also views the expulsion of the U.S. military from the strategic border crossing between Syria, Iraq and Jordan as a prerequisite to securing a sustainable supply line to Syria and Lebanon, as well as to establishing a new battlefront against Israel in southern Syria. Last week, the I.R.G.C. deployed scores of well-armed Iraqi militia forces of Harakat al-Nujaba near al-Tanf.