Moscow acted swiftly to boost its ties with Tehran and beef up the Syrian military in reaction to the US-British-French surgical missile strike on Syria’s chemical sites on Saturday, April 12. DEBKAfile’s analysts report that when Russian and Iranian officials warned of “consequences,” they were already on the move: Saturday morning, while cruise missiles rained down on Syrian chemical sites, a Syrian-Hizballah force, backed by Russian mercenaries, renewed their push to cross the Euphrates River and snatch from US control the east Syrian Konok gas and Al-Umar oil fields.
There were initial clashes with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Army (SDF). Two days earlier, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s close adviser Ali Akbar Velyati pointed the way when he told a news conference in Damascus: East of the Euphrates is “a very important area. We hope big steps will be taken in order to liberate this area and expel the occupying Americans.”