What’s behind the clashes between the US and ‘Iranian-backed’ fighters in Syria? | News from the war in Syria

The escalation comes after months of calm and amid ongoing productive talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal.

Three separate days of skirmishes this week between US military forces and allegedly Iranian-backed militias in Syria have shed light on the equally indirect US presence in the country. negotiations to save the Iran nuclear deal is entering what appears to be the final stage.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that American attacks killed four fighters in eastern Syria, adding that Washington’s action was aimed at protecting its forces from attacks by Iranian-backed armed groups in the region.

“I led the August 23 strikes to protect and defend the safety of our personnel … and to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran-backed militias from carrying out or supporting further attacks against personnel and United States facilities,” Biden said in a statement. before the US Congress about its decision to take military action.

Iran has denied that the groups involved are backed by Tehran, or that the targets are linked to it, and called on US forces to withdraw from Syria.

Biden said the attacks bombed a facility used by the groups for logistics and munitions storage and were a response to raids on the United States and its allies in the region.

Three U.S. service members also suffered minor injuries on Wednesday when armed groups launched rocket attacks on two military bases in northeastern Syria, according to the US Central Command, adding that US forces killed the four suspected fighters in response.

Jean-Loup Samaan, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said the recent US raids looked like tit-for-tat swaps rather than massive military escalation.

“If we follow the statements of the US government, the logic so far doesn’t seem to be to escalate but to restore some sort of status quo between the two sides,” Samaan told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t think the idea was to link the developments in Syria to the ongoing nuclear talks, in fact it’s probably the opposite,” the analyst said.

“It also reminds us that the deal at stake will not solve all the issues on the table, as we saw in 2015 the deal had no effect on other regional issues,” he said. added.

The escalation between the two sides could threaten talks aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal between major world powers, led by the United States, and Iran.

Negotiations to restore the deal have intensified in recent months, more than four years after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal, which aims to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against the country.

The sides have been exchange amendments to what is called a “final text” to the agreement in the talks.

US domestic politics

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, believes that the recent escalation in Iran stems from US domestic politics ahead of the upcoming midterm polls in the country.

“Biden wants to be seen as a strong leader before the American political class and people before the next [mid-term] elections, and also because now we are close to a nuclear agreement,” Marandi said from Tehran, adding that the forces under attack are present in the country with the approval of the Syrian government to fight the ISIL (ISIS) group.

In addition to fighting ISIL, militias fighting in support of the Syrian government have played an active role in defeating the Syrian opposition in large swathes of the country.

Marandi added that the “unlawful US attacks” appear to be calculated because the damage they caused was limited, and therefore does not affect the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.

“US troops are careful not to escalate the situation too much without significant damage or cost, which also shows that this decision is more about domestic politics than regional issues,” Marandi said.

The 2022 US midterm elections will take place on November 8. The candidates will compete for the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

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