Tensions between Russian and US forces in Syria have been rising since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last year.
We point out that the US maintains approximately 900 troops between the Al-Tanf base and some oil fields in the northeastern region of Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Unlike the Russian military deployment in the country, the American presence has not been approved by the legitimate government in Damascus.
On the other hand, the Khmeim air base, the headquarters of the Russian military group in Syria, is protected by a multi-layered air defense network. Several S-400, Pantsir-S and Tor air defense systems are known to be deployed at the airbase.
However, a series of explosions rocked the town of Jableh, which is just three kilometers south of the Russian Khmeim air base on the Syrian coast.
Syrian state television said the blasts were the result of a military exercise. However, activists in Jableh claimed that several armed drones that attempted to attack the Khmeim airbase were intercepted by Syrian and Russian air defenses over the city.
The reports of a new attack on the base came amid high tensions between Russian and US forces in Syria. If confirmed, the attempted attack will provoke a fierce response from the Russian military group in the country.
Joint chemical defense exercise
As a first response, Syrian and Russian troops conducted a joint chemical defense exercise near the southeastern Syrian region of Al-Tanf, where the United States maintains a base.
During the exercise, Syrian and Russian troops were trained in detecting chemical threats and conducting combat operations in areas contaminated with toxic substances. Also during the exercise, the troops were trained to wear a suit against nuclear, biological and chemical threats and to use different detection devices.
The US claims to be present in Al-Tanf to counter ISIS. However, the Russians believe the real purpose of the base is to block a strategic highway connecting Damascus with the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. In addition, the base is reportedly used as an outpost to gather intelligence and facilitate Israeli attacks against Syria.
The joint chemical defense exercise came just two weeks after Sergei Naryskin, the head of Russia's foreign intelligence service, warned that the US had delivered munitions laced with toxic materials to militants near al-Tanf.
"Deputy Commander of the US Army Central Command, James Malloy, is leading the activities of the terrorist organization Daesh (ISIS) in Syria, as he delivers missiles with warheads filled with toxic materials to an area near the illegal US military base in Al-Tanf," Naryskin said.
He also pointed out that the area around the Al-Tanf base has become a "staging point for terrorist gangs", where a joint US-UK intelligence committee directs ISIS activities near Damascus and other parts of southern Syria.
"The Anglo-Saxons, as they usually do, are preparing to support their machinations with a strong media campaign, aimed at showing the countries of the Arab world that their choice to resume dialogue and relations with Syria was a strategic mistake and that those who do not agree with this approach are directly threatened with Western sanctions," said the head of Russian intelligence.
Washington seems concerned about Moscow's recent moves in Syria. The Americans believe that the Russian military group in Syria is quietly coordinating with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for long-term plans to pressure the US to withdraw its forces from the al-Tanf base and other areas of Syria.