The tiny outpost at Tanf, surrounded by vast desert, was established during the battle against the Islamic State. But its purpose changed last year when Iranian-backed forces began bearing down on the isolated garrison.
U.S. officials feared that a small, exposed force of special operators there could be overrun as Iran, fighting in support of the Syrian government, sought to lock down a land route to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. strikes on the encroaching forces risked pulling the Pentagon further into Syria’s civil war.
But for some senior aides, the tense encounters around Tanf were an opportunity: a chance to bolster an operation that had become an accidental bulwark against Iran, and launch a larger campaign against Tehran’s military reach in the region.
The rest can be read at Wapo here.