The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Corps, which is directly backed by Russia, was deployed on the Syrian-Iraqi border for the first time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on December 17.
According to the London-based monitoring group, the 5th Corps troops were deployed in a number of border posts located near the town of al-Bukamal.
“Several Iranian-backed militias, including al-Nujabaa’ Movement, the Iraqi Hezbollah and al-Abdal, had handed over several posts to the 5th Corps, in accordance with a Russian-Iranian agreement whose terms have not been demonstrated yet,” the SOHR’s report reads.
Last week, the Russian Military Police established a headquarters in al-Bukamal. The al-Qa’im border crossing with Iraq is located less than 7 km away from the town’s center.
Russian forces have been operating in the southern Deir Ezzor countryside for almost three years. Their presence in the region is meant to counter ISIS as well deter the U.S.-led coalition, which maintains a large force on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
Pro-Israeli sources claim that the increasing Russian presence in southern Deir Ezzor and along the border with Iraq may be a sign of a nearing Iranian withdrawal from the region.
Iranian-backed forces were originally deployed in the region because the SAA was busy on many fronts in southern and central Syria. Most of these fronts were dealt with in the past two years.
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