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SDF, ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army: Deir Ezzor and the Battles to Come

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SDF, ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army: Deir Ezzor and the Battles to Come

FILE IMAGE: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and army troops

Written by Hadi Gholami Nohouji exclusively for SouthFront

Little over two weeks has passed since the end of the siege of Deir Ezzor and now there seems to be increasing tensions and hostilities against the two factions hunting down the remaining ISIS pockets in the eastern areas of Syria.

The city of Deir Ezzor, under siege for a little more than 3 years (second only to the Siege of Sarajevo that had place from April of 1992 to February of 1996), was broken by the Syrian Army and its allies, an event considered by many as the end of the Islamic State’s reign in eastern Syria.

The celebrations didn’t last very long since the U.S backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched their own offensive against ISIS in the Deir Ezzor Governorate, a military operation aimed at expanding the areas under the control of the Syrian Kurds.

The simultaneous operations launched by the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) and the SDF to take control of the zones on the banks of the Euphrates River has pitted the two forces combating the Islamic State against each other and the situation could, very rapidly, escalate into a full blown military confrontation between the two forces and even their backers.

As of now there have been little to no incidents of military confrontations between the Syrian forces and the SDF but the proximity of the two factions (which now effectively control adjacent zones near Khusham, about 13 kilometers away from the city of Deir Ezzor) and their competition for the zones under the extremist’s control indicates that a showdown between SAA and SDF is just a matter of time.

SDF, ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army: Deir Ezzor and the Battles to Come

Click to see the full-size map

This is especially true for the areas near Tabieh Gas Plant and the Jafra oil field, areas that host a great part of eastern Syria’s oil and natural gas resources and that, because of their economical significance, are ideal objectives of both the SAA and SDF.

Uncertainty now looms over the future of Deir Ezzor and the confrontation of the two factions makes possible the increased intervention of the external players (AKA Russia and United States) in the Syrian conflict, something that could change the equilibrium of power in Syria depending on how deep each of those two superpower would be willing to go in Syria.

Still, the presence of Russian advisors close to the battle zones and the recent losses of Russian servicemen and officers in and around Deir Ezzor suggest that Moscow has been and is more than willing to increase its logistical support to its Syrian allies so they can outmaneuver the Syrian Kurds and secure the western banks of Euphrates River and, if possible, the shared frontier zones of Syria and Iraq.

This, (just) in theory, could in turn force the U.S to up the game and increase its presence and its aerial and logistical support of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a decision that wouldn’t sit very well with Turkey, a Washington ally and a NATO member, but it is highly unlikely that Washington would go all-in in Syria.

It would be wise to discard any kind of direct conflict between the United States and Russia in eastern Syria since the U.S is unlikely to risk even a limited military confrontation with Moscow in Syria, where, because of the rapid advances of the Syrian forces in the last few weeks, it no longer is able to achieve its past stated objectives without having to pay a very lofty price to secure its now non-existent interests.

It is because of this that it is highly recommended to not pay any heed to the kind of sensational articles and so called analysis that even warn of the World War III starting in Syria because of military clashes between the U.S and Russia.

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