US warplanes attacked a vehicle convoy in what they are describing as a “deescalation zone” near al-Tanf, identifying the targets are Pro-Assad forces, and destroying multiple vehicles. Casualty figures are as of yet unknown, and the US is claiming the attack was “defensive in nature.”
A number of questions are unclear, as the US is identifying the targets as “Assad forces” or “regime vehicles,” but some media reports identify them as simply Shi’ite militias. The deescalation zone appears to refer to the southern safe zone in Syria, around Daraa.
That’s confusing, however, because Pentagon officials also claim the targeted forces were within 55km of a “US training base” at al-Tanf, where US ground troops are stationed, and the Daraa safe zone appears farther away from the area that base is in.
The US described the base as housing special forces training rebels to fight against the Assad government. The Tanf base has also been a target of ISIS in recent weeks. They are insisting the presence of those special forces justified the attack on the convoy, insisting it was purely defensive and does not mark a change in US policy.
US officials also appear confused about the timing of the attack, claiming they warned Russia that the convoy was inside the safe zone and gave Russia time to try to get in contact with them, which other officials presented the “warning” as a military show of force, sending warplanes to “buzz” the convoy a couple of times then attacking when they didn’t turn around.
The confusion surrounding this incident leaves open a lot of question, though the identities of the targeted convoy could be a particularly big question mark. If indeed the target was a Shi’ite militia it is likely to be a militia from either Iraq or Iran. If it were an Iraqi militia, it might well be one the US had previously been fighting alongside against ISIS, deploying into an area with a known ISIS presence, and being attacked by US forces for doing so.