Iranian Forces were bombed by the U.S. military south of Manbij, Syria on Monday. A convoy of Iranian forces and allied militia was hit by air strikes as it drove near Al-Tanf base. Four Syrians, one Iranian national and three other non-Syrian fighters were killed in the strike carried out on Saturday, the Britain-based war monitor said.
Just a day before, the Israeli Air Force conducted multiple missile strikes against an ammunition depot located at the Mezzeh military airport. It is reported that at least two pro-government fighters were killed and 11 wounded.
* Both the U.S and Israeli attacks on Syrian/Iranian forces were designed to slow thier advance towards Idlib, Syria and deplete their munitions supplies.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored the danger of an Iranian military presence in Syria when he met with US Special Representative for Syrian Affairs James Jeffrey. “The two discussed the situation in Syria and the joint effort to stop Iran’s terror and aggression,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement it issued after the meeting.
The State Department over the weekend warned that a “military offensive in Idlib will escalate the crisis in Syria and the region, risk the lives of humanitarians and Syrian civilians, and destroy civilian infrastructure.”
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Damascus on Monday for talks on the latest developments in the country, Iranian news agencies reported.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has said that armed groups must be “cleaned out” of Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, according to Iranian media.
Also on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia not to “recklessly attack” Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, warning that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.
On Aug 29th, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calls militants in Syria’s Idlib a “festering abscess” which needs to be liquidated in a press conference with his counterpart in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem following a closed-door meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the majority of Syria had been “freed of terrorists”, save for Idlib, a northeastern province bordering Turkey.
It is clear for all these statements that the lines have been drawn. This seven year proxy war is now evolving into direct country-to-country low intensity confrontations. Lines are being drawn and while plans are being devised to take back Idlib, Syria. The movement of military assets towards Idlib is undeniable.
Turkey deployed more military vehicles to its southeastern province of Kiilis near the Syrian border early Aug. 4.
A total of eight trucks loaded with tanks and howitzers passed through kilis and in the direction of Elbeyli district on the Syrian border.
A Syrian army convoy consisting of heavy equipment was recently seen entering the town of Deir Jamal SW of Tell Rifaat. They were pictured traveling south towards Idlib and are now though to be positioned approximately 34 miles to the north of the city.
At this time, it doesn’t appear that Russia is moving ground troops or mobile equipment towards Idlib. However, Russian does look to be positioning itself for providing aerial support to Syrian and Iranian ground forces if the order to attack Idlib ever comes.
The Russian Navy’s commander-in-chief Vladimir Korolyov told the media earlier that 26 Russian ships, including two submarines, and also 34 planes of the Aerospace Force will conduct an unprecedented routine exercise in the Mediterranean on September 1-8. Part of these exercise is to practice aerial refueling operations. For air support to be effective in a battle for Idlib, aerial refueling of fighter aircraft is essential. The Russians have also sent their Tu-214R to Mediterranean. It is the most modern Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft.
Not to be out done, the U.S, France and Britain are all united against the Bashar al-Assad regime and have a multitude of air and naval assets in the Mediterranean as well.
It appears that an attack on Idlib is all but unavoidable. If an attack on Idlib does occur, it is possible that Russia will refrain from being directly involved as long as Syria and Iran forces are not disrupted by U.S. military forces. I believe that Russia’s build up is only meant to deter U.S. forces from becoming involved in a battle for Idilb. To be certain, this does not mean Russia isn’t already providing weapons, intelligence and logistical support to both Syrian and Iranian forces. Only when both of these forces feel emboldened enough by this support will they decide to attack Idlib. It’s just a matter of time.
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