The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria’s East. It stated:
Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?
Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A “warning shot” was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several “SDF” were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.
The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:
“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”
Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the ‘third force’ in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.
South of the river the Syrian government forces consolidate their positions around the two-thirds of Deir Ezzor city now under their control. To avoid unnecessary casualties and damage they push the Islamic State fighters out of the up-build areas instead of immediately surrounding and besieging them. They will be easier to eliminate in the more rural areas still left to them. The campaign south of the Euphrates will continue along the river towards ISIS held areas in the west and east.
A second group of Syrian government forces is coming up from the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border triangle and is progressing along the Syrian Iraqi border towards al-Buqamal/Qaim at the Euphrates. An Iraqi force is working in parallel with them on the Iraqi side of the border.
During the next months three Syrian government forces are likely to meet where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. One group is now moving north along the Syrian-Iraqi border, one coming from Deir Ezzor on the south side of the river and the one that will soon establish itself north of the Euphrates to move towards the oil-fields further east. Iraqi forces are expected to mirror those moves on their side of the border. In the end of the operations no area in Syria and Iraq will be left under control of the ISIS organization. (Isolated ISIS holdouts east of Homs as well as in Iraq are under siege and will soon be cleared.)
There is no more need for any U.S. intervention to achieve the total defeat of the Islamic State. While the U.S. president had declared that his country has no further interest in Syria but the defeat of ISIS, other forces within the U.S. ruling structure have likely different ideas. We can expect some operations, by “independent” U.S. proxy forces or by “accidental” bombing, to hinder the Syrian and Iraqi government plans.
In the north-west of Syria al-Qaeda is still in control of Idleb governate. Syria, Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed last week to pacify the area by force. Each of them will take control of a “deescalation zone” within Idelb. The announcement of the agreement lacked all details. It is yet unknown who’s force will take what part of Idleb and how the coordination of the project will proceed. Leaks of various map outlining designated areas of control are of Turkish origin and unlikely to reflect the real agreed upon lines.