Syraq SITREP 44: Trump Delays U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Indefinitely, Amid Russian-Reported Rumors of More American Casualties from IEDs

Alleged Attacks on U.S. Servicemen by Pro-Damascus 'National Resistance' in Syria

The video from Southfront is posted above, with the key excerpt reproduced here:

On April 2 and April 3, rumors actively circulated online alleging that the US-led coalition has suffered notable casualties in Syria. According to these reports:

  1. A pro-government group “National Resistance Forces”, which allegedly supports the Assad government, has shelled a US military base in the area of Raqqah with Grad rockets.
  2. On March 30, a US military column was allegedly targeted by an IED blast on the road between al-Hasakah and Tell Abyad. Reports claim that two cars were destroyed, 6 US service members killed and 8 others wounded in the incident. Local “self-defense” groups acting against the US occupation had allegedly planted the IED.
  3. Another US military column was reportedly shelled with heavy machine guns on the road between Manbij and Raqqa, also on March 30. The attack allegedly resulted in the killing of 2 US servicemen and the wounding of 8 others.
  4. On April 1, 7 US mercenaries were killed and 10 others wounded in an attack by 4 gunmen in Al-Shaddadah.

Initially these reports appeared in a few Russian Telegram channels referring to some local sources and then were repeated by a number of blogs and media outlets aiming to gain additional views and attention. However, all these reports lacked photo or video evidence to confirm the alleged casualties among the US servicemen.

According to Syrian experts, these rumors are most likely a soft version of the “Russian mercenaries” story when the mainstream media claimed that over 100 “Russian fighters” had been killed in the US-led coalition strikes in the province of Deir Ezzor.

Steven ben Noon of Israeli News Live picked up the rumors, and posted this video:

Russian TV channels have also picked up and reported these claims, as seen in this subtitled video using footage of American soldiers getting medevaced in Afghanistan:

As Trump Calls for Withdrawal Without a Timetable U.S. Military Doubles Down in Manbij

Turkey's Anadalou news agency reported on April 1 that the Pentagon sent dozens of additional troops and constructed two new observation posts near Manbij. This messaging to Turkey seems more consistent with what U.S. anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk and Gen. Joseph Votel are saying, that the Americans will stay for at least several more months if not indefinitely. In their glee at the defiance the deep state and Swamp can show toward their nominal commander in chief, the neocon Democrat rag Daily Beast announces, "Withdraw Troops from Syria? Trump Advisers: F--- That". The French are also said to be participating in Washington's line in the sand versus the Turks' threats to take Manbij or at least, force the Americans into joint patrols with their NATO allies the Turkish Army:

On April 3, the Kurdistan 24 news agency reported, citing Rezan Gilo, the joint chief of defense of Syrian Kurdistan, that an unknown number of French troops reportedly entered the border town of Tell Abyad and the city of Manbij. The newspaper claimed that the French deployment was coordinated with the US military.

For his part, the Turkish president announced on April 4 that Ankara would continue its operation in Syria until Kurdish forces leave Syria’s Manbij region.

“I would like to repeat that unless we ensure security in all the regions controlled by the YPG [the Kurdish People’s Protection Units] first of all, in Manbij, we will not stop,” Erdogan said during a trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria, which took place in Ankara on Wednesday. -- from Al-Masdar News/Sputnik

Partition Plan? Russia, Turkey and Iran Announce Joint Peace Efforts to End Conflict

It remains to be seen if Washington, putting the lives of American servicemen at risk amidst the evident disagreement of their Commander in Chief with a protracted U.S. presence, can do anything to effect the final outcome in Syria. After Trump hinted that perhaps he would reconsider a limited U.S. occupation in return for the Saudis and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Sunni powers coughing up the cash to fund it, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani ridiculed the Americans as untrustworthy, saying one thing one day and doing something else the next. For his part, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated Turkey's demands that the U.S. stop funding and arming the Syrian Kurdish YPG/SDF factions linked to the PKK militants who have been battling his country for decades.

With President Vladimir Putin announcing that Moscow will accelerate the delivery of S400 air defense systems to Turkey in 2019, while breaking ground on a Russian-constructed nuclear power plant in the country, there remains some flies in the ointment: Turkey's long term occupation plans for northern Syria. Unlike the U.S., the Turks have sufficient tolerance for casualties and a large pool of Arab rather than Kurdish manpower to sustain their role in partitioning a portion of sovereign Syrian territory. Ankara insists it is not present to occupy but fight Kurdish 'terrorists' and is helping with humanitarian aid and reconstruction from Jarablus to Afrin. Nonetheless, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad refused to join the Ankara talks despite the symbolism of Erdogan, who had previously denounced Assad in the strongest terms, being invited.

Despite Syrian-Turkish tensions that Russia is mediating, Damascus-based correspondent Elijah J. Magnier believes the Syria War is finally drawing to a close after seven years of brutal fighting. An example of Turkish-Russian cooperation to prevent bloodshed occured at Tel Rifaat, where Kurdish YPG units pulled out at Moscow and Damascus request allowing Russian military police to act as buffers and return the city to Syrian government control, rather than see it occupied by Turkish backed Free Syrian Army 'moderate rebels'.

Magnier writes this week, discussing the question of money and President Trump's request if not demand that Saudi Arabia fund an illegal American occupation inside Syria:

Turkey is indeed in need of time to tame and “clean” northern Syria because it is controlling a bouquet of militants from all walks of life, with different sponsors and agendas. These have become a burden on their own sponsors because there is no longer any purpose for their continued existence.

Iran has a very small unit of Special Forces and advisors in Syria but a large number of allies who are slowly pulling out, particularly when the Syrian Army has recovered. The [victorious - JWS] Ghouta battle is the biggest proof there were no other allies on the ground.

The Russian-Turkish economic and trade relationship is being boosted significantly, reaching $22 bn. President Erdogan said his aim is to reach $100 bn without giving a clear time frame. Ankara has chosen Moscow and Tehran as main political and commercial allies ahead of its relationship with Washington.

Although the US establishment is very worried about the Ankara meeting, its President seems only concerned about how to siphon off Saudi Arabia’s money. He is putting the life of every US soldier up blackmailing the Saudi Monarchy that asked for the US forces to remain in north-east Syria. Now, Trump is putting US soldiers in the balance, willing to keep US occupying forces in part of Syria apparently ready to exchange their life for a fistful of dollars.