ISIS Fight Is About To Become A Lot More Complicated
By Saagar Enjeti
The Syrian regime and its allies’ advances against the Islamic State may complicate the U.S. fight against the terrorist group as the military campaign accelerates.
The Assad regime and its allies breached the ISIS-held city of Deir al-Zour Tuesday, in what is expected to be a long and bloody campaign.
Deir al-Zour is located in the middle Euphrates valley, where U.S. commanders expect to move the military campaign against the terrorist group in the coming months. Movement of the U.S. fight into the middle Euphrates River valley could put the U.S. on a collision course with the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian allies.
Outgoing Operation Inherent Resolve commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, sought to downplay any fears of potential conflict Thursday, telling Pentagon reporters, “we have lines that are agreed to that will cover much of the Middle Euphrates River Valley now; not all of it yet, but we’ll get to that when the time comes.” He added, “everyone that’s converging down there is trying to defeat ISIS as a first priority and we’ll use that to our advantage to work through it.”
While all parties seek the defeat of ISIS, the U.S., Russia, Iran, and Syria have different ideas on who should controlled liberated land from the terrorist group. The U.S. has already had several encounters with unmanned Iranian drones, shot down a Syrian regime aircraft in late June that repeatedly bombed U.S. backed anti-ISIS forces, and repeatedly bombed pro-regime forces that did not heed warnings.
The U.S. situation is complicated by the lack of official communications with the Syrian regime or the myriad other Iranian-backed militias operating on the Syrian battlefield. Any message for the Syrian regime or the militia groups must first be communicated by military to military channels with the Russian government.