Russia, Syrian regime seeking to poach U.S.-backed fighters: Reports

| Updated: Aug 04, 2017 06:45 IST

New York [U.S.A.], August 4 (ANI): Russia and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are attempting to coax U.S.-backed rebels based at the At Tanf garrison in southern Syria to switch sides, CNN reports. The move is being seen as an apparent bid to oust the coalition from a strategic piece of real estate considered crucial to Syria and Iran's long-term interests in the region. By poaching leaders of the rebel group, the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies would be able to better pressure the U.S. and coalition troops to vacate the strategic tri-border area near At Tanf, a US official familiar with the development told CNN. The recruitment campaign is believed to be aimed at mid-level commanders of the groups being trained and equipped by the U.S.-led coalition at the At Tanf base which sits in near the tri-border area of Syria, Jordan and Iraq. A coalition spokesman has said one of the defectors was "actively attempting to recruit his former comrades and convince them to join the regime." CNN reports that the leader of the recruitment effort is a former rebel sub-commander who has criticised the U.S. forces at At Tanf and has promised would-be recruits positions in the regime's armed forces as they clear their homelands in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. U.S. officials have said that around 80 percent of the regime's effective fighters are Iranian-backed Shia militias and the pro-regime forces near At Tanf consist primarily of Iranian-backed Shia groups. It was earlier reported that pro-regime forces had established a number of outposts and checkpoints in the area just outside the 55 kilometer "de-confliction" zone surrounding At Tanf, which was negotiated by Russia and the U.S.-led coalition. This led to some clashes in June, including U.S. airstrikes against regime forces who had encroached on the zone and U.S. jets shooting down two pro-regime drones that were perceived to pose a threat to local allies and their coalition advisors. But U.S. officials have said repeatedly that tensions between the coalition and regime forces had abated in the intervening weeks. (ANI)