In an interesting development, the oil-rich territory of Northern Syria, held by US-backed SDF Forces was attacked by Syrian government troops and backed by Iranian militias. The government forces briefly took some villages before the SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes forced them back. It is the first time that Iranian militias and coalition troops have come into contact.
A U.S. army statement sent to Reuters confirmed the attack on SDF forces by what it called pro-regime forces near Deir al-Zor city and said the “coalition used established deconfliction channels to de-escalate the situation”, without elaborating.
“The coalition remains committed to our SDF partners in the campaign to defeat Daesh (Islamic State) in eastern Syria,” the statement added.
Earlier, the Syrian army said it had captured a string of villages east of the Euphrates near the border with Iraq held by Kurdish-led forces, state television said. It gave no explanation for the move.
There have been elaborate “deconfliction lines” separating the coalition forces on the eastern side of the river from the Russian and Iranian backed forces on the western side to prevent clashes, U.S army officials and defense analysts say.
Before the announcement that the Syrian army had taken control of the villages, the SDF said they were engaged in heavy clashes with Syrian army troops on the outskirts of the village of Janin near the Euphrates.
They accused Syrian authorities of seeking to disrupt preparations by the U.S.-led coalition to resume an imminent offensive against Islamic State in several pockets of territory along the middle Euphrates River Valley that they still control.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday he expected a “re-energized” effort against Islamic State militants in eastern Syria in the coming days.
This is an interesting and potentially explosive development in that the Syrian government, after the chemical weapons fallout, is pushing the tempo up and with Iranian support was playing a dangerous game of chicken here.
We saw what happened in February when government forces backed by Russian mercenaries attacked a coalition base. The deconflicting lines have been broken again. And it won’t be the last time.
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