The US deployment of multiple rocket launchers in southern Syria may be intended to cut off Syrian government troops from allies in Iraq, since there are no Islamic State militants in the region to target with the weapons, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
The comment on Friday comes after the US deployed High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) in southern Syria, close to the border with Jordan. The powerful truck-mounted launchers arrived from Jordan to the city of At Tanf this week. The city serves as a base for militia forces trained by US instructors.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the presence of the launchers near At Tanf cannot be justified by a need to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISISISIL) terrorists.
“According to our data, there are no ISIL troops remaining in the area. Placing there such powerful weapons, which are not suited well to fight ISIL in the first place, is considered by some experts in Russia and other nations as an attempt to create an additional military force, which would prevent the creation of stable channels between government and pro-government forces in Syria and their partners in neighboring Iraq,” he said.
“If these conclusions are true, one can only regret that the task of creating a single front of relentless fight against terrorism not affected by double standards is being substituted by yet another attempt at geopolitical maneuvering, which abuses confessional differences within Islam,” Lavrov added.
The Damascus Shiite government is allied with Shiite players in the region, including Iran, the Iraqi government and Shiite militia groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Islamic State is Sunni fundamentalist at its core, labeling all Shiites apostates who must be killed.
Lavrov said fighting terrorism should be a priority for all Muslims regardless of their confession.