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Pentagon plays down Russian influence in Syria after clash with US-backed forces

Secretary of Defense James Mattis insisted that Moscow had little control over Syrian troops that attacked US allies; Mattis also dismissed fears that the United States is getting dragged into another Middle East war.
Syrian Army soldiers walk along a street in Deir al Zor, Syria in this handout picture provided by SANA on September 11, 2017. SANA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. - RC17E35CAF70

US Defense Secretary James Mattis today cast strong doubts on Russian influence over Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria following a bloody clash with US-backed forces.

The retired Marine general’s comments came one day after US special forces helped repel some 300 pro-Assad troops who reportedly targeted a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) facility in Deir ez-Zor with tanks and artillery. The response left about 100 attackers dead, according to the Pentagon.

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