US armoured forces heading eastern Syria PHOTO: [File: Yunus Keles/ Anadolu]

US Defense Secretary confirmed Saturday that Washington has begun sending fresh troops to the oil-rich regions eastern Syria.

Iran Press/Middle East: A US convoy of more than a dozen vehicles was spotted driving south of the north-eastern city of Qamishli, likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby.

This reinforcement will introduce a new dimension to the US military presence in Syria.


Mark Esper said the move is aimed at keeping the fields from potentially falling into the hands of Islamic State. It was the latest sign that extracting the military from Syria is more uncertain and complicated than President Donald Trump is making it out to be.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday harshly criticized the US decision to send armored vehicles and combat troops into the oil-rich region in eastern Syria, calling it “banditry”.

Russia's foreign ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said “what Washington is doing now, the seizure and control of oil fields in eastern Syria under its armed control, is, quite simply, international state banditry.

“All hydrocarbon deposits and other minerals located on the territory of Syria do not belong to the [Isis] terrorists, and even less to the ‘American defenders from Isis terrorists,’ but exclusively to the Syrian Arab Republic.

“The real cause of this illegal action by the United States in Syria lies far from the ideals that Washington has proclaimed and from the slogans of fighting terrorism,” Konashenkov said.

A large convoy of Syrian government troops was also spotted heading toward the M4 highway. The Syrian state news agency Sana said troops had entered the region of Ras al-Ayn, deploying to eight villages along the highway and up near the Syrian-Turkish border.