What has been described as a “rogue Iranian-led militia” has breached the 55 km deconfliction zone around the U.S Special Operations base at al-Tanf and attacked MAT, an anti-ISIS unit trained by the U.S.

Maghaweir al-Thowra (MAT) is a group that has been trained, equipped and led by American and coalition SOF operators in the tiny base of al-Tanf. MAT reported that an Iranian-led militia entered the 55km deconfliction zone and attacked their forces. They pushed the militia forces back.

MAT forces also claim that this rogue Iranian proxy may have come under attack from Russian airstrikes just outside of the deconfliction zone. Major Johnny Walker a spokesman with Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said that they are monitoring the situation but didn’t comment further as to whether U.S. soldiers took part in the fighting. 

“We are closely monitoring reported hostilities around the 55km de-confliction zone in southern Syria. We are coordinating with our partners, the Maghaweir al-Thowra, and using de-confliction protocols to ensure the safety of our forces,” he said. 

The small base along the Syrian-Iraq border has been a big thorn in the side of the Syrian government, the Russians and most importantly the Iranians. Tensions have been high around this base since 2017 when anti-ISIS groups pushed the Islamic State out of the area and the forces from all of the countries involved began jockeying for primacy in the vacuum left by ISIS. 

The deconfliction zone surrounding al-Tanf base (Image courtesy of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies).

In May of that year, an Iranian-led militia tested the U.S. coalition and sent armored vehicles and bulldozers into the deconfliction zone. U.S. airstrikes destroyed a tank and a bulldozer.

The Russians frequently said in the past that the United States was training terrorists in al-Tanf, something that the state-run Iranian news services picked right up. 

Back in 2018, Russian state-run media outlet Sputnik quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem as saying that the U.S. was “gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them to wage war on the Syrian army.”