A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said, according to a report published exclusively on Reuters.
The situation was resolved on Tuesday when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusair in the Homs region on Monday, one of the officials, a military commander, has said.
It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad’s Iran-backed allies in the war. Iranian and Russian support has been critical to Assad’s war effort.
“It was an uncoordinated step,” said the commander. “Now it is resolved. We rejected the step. The Syrian army - Division 11 - is deploying at the border,” said the commander, adding Hezbollah fighters were still located in the area.
There was no comment from the Russian military about the incident. Russia has faced calls from Israel to rein in Iran in Syria, where Israel has mounted numerous attacks against Hezbollah and other targets it has described as Iran-backed.
“Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis,” said the commander, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or Islamic State because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The second official said the “resistance axis” - a reference to Iran and its allies - was “studying the situation” after the uncoordinated Russian move.
Russia and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah have worked together against the insurgency. Hezbollah deployed to Syria in 2012. The Russian air force arrived in 2015 in support of Assad.