Three days of skirmishes this week between US troops and allegedly Iran-backed Syrian militias have drawn attention to the US presence in the country, while indirect talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal appear to be in their final phase.
US strikes have killed four fighters in eastern Syria, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday, adding that Washington’s actions were aimed at protecting its forces from Iran-backed armed groups in the region.
“I led the August 23 strike to protect and defend the safety of our personnel … and to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran-backed militias from carrying out or supporting further attacks against personnel and personnel. American facilities,” Biden said in a statement. .” to the US Congress on its decision to take military action.
Iran denies that the groups are backed by Tehran and that the targets are linked to Iran, and has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
Biden said the attacks, which bombed facilities used by the groups for logistics and ammunition storage, were in response to attacks on the United States and its allies in the region.
Three US service members were also lightly injured on Wednesday when armed groups launched rocket attacks on two military bases in northeast Syria, according to US Central Command, adding that US forces responded by killing four fighters presumed.
Jean-Loup Samaan, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, said the latest US attack looked like a tit-for-tat swap rather than a massive military escalation.
“If we follow the US government’s statement, the logic so far seems not to be getting worse, but to restore some sort of status quo between the two sides,” Samarn told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t think the idea is to link the developments in Syria to the ongoing nuclear talks, in fact it could be quite the opposite,” the analyst said.
“It also reminds us that this deal will not solve all the issues on the table, as we saw in 2015 the deal has no impact on other regional issues,” he added.
The escalation between the two countries could threaten talks between major world powers led by the United States and Iran to salvage the nuclear deal.
More than four years after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the deal, talks to revive the deal, which aimed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in return for lifting sanctions against the country, have multiplied in recent months.
The two parties exchanged amendments for a “final text” of the agreement which falls within the negotiated framework.
US domestic politics
According to Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, Iran’s latest escalation stems from US domestic politics ahead of the upcoming midterm polls.
“Biden wants to be seen as a strong leader in the face of the American political class and people to come. [mid-term] elections, and also because we are now close to a nuclear agreement,” Marandi said in Tehran, adding that the forces under attack were currently in the country as the Syrian government approved the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) group. .
In addition to fighting ISIL, militias supporting the Syrian government have played an active role in defeating the Syrian opposition in large swathes of the country.
Marandi added that the “unlawful attack by the United States” appeared to be due to the limited damage reported and therefore would not affect the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
“The US military was careful not to escalate the situation too much without causing significant damage or paying a huge price, which also suggests that this decision is more about domestic politics than regional issues,” Marandi said.
The 2022 US midterm elections will be held on November 8, with candidates vying for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate.