14 September 2017 — Moon of Alabama
When the Islamic State siege on Deir Ezzor was broken by the Syrian Arab Army we asked:
Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?
To cross the river is clearly desirable but also potentially contentious.
Since then several convoys of military bridging equipment have been seen on the road to Deir Ezzor. It is now obvious that the SAA will bridge the river (all regular bridges have been destroyed by U.S. bombing during earlier fighting) and send significant forces across. New questions now are: When, where and with what aim?
As soon as the government intent became clear the U.S. pushed its local proxy forces to immediately snatch the ISIS held oilfields. In less than two days they deployed over 30 kilometers deep into the ISIS held areas north of the Euphrates. It is obvious that such progress could not have been made if ISIS had defended itself. I find it likely that a deal has been made between those two sides.
The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.
Just like during the “Anbar Awaking” in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game.
Originally the U.S. had planned to let ISIS take Deir Ezzor. It had twice attacked Syrian government forces in the area killing more than a hundred of them. This had allowed ISIS to capture large chunks of the government enclave and to disable the airport which was need for resupplies:
After Russian support for the SAA changed the balance of power, and after the election of Donald Trump, those plans had to change. Syria and its allies created facts on the ground and it is now again in control of the area it had lost to ISIS. It will also liberate the rest of the city.
Here is current map of the east-Syrian Euphrates area. .
The SAA (red) has liberated parts of the city and the airport. The road from Damascus to Deir Ezzor is completely under SAA control. The population, which had nearly starved under the ISIS siege, is receiving fresh food, other necessary goods and medical attention.
The hatched areas of the map show possible next aims for the U.S. proxy campaign (yellow) and the Syrian government forces (red) in their fight against ISIS (grey) and against each other.
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?
Areas in the north-west and south-west of Syria have been relatively quiet. In recent weeks no relevant change of positions took place. In the south-east around the Syria, Jordan, Iraq border triangle the Syrian government retook several border points. The move comes after an agreement between Russia, the U.S. and Jordan conceded the area back to Syrian government control. The “rebels” in the area were CIA financed but are now out of income. They were ordered by their masters to move to Jordan but several groups refused to do that. The Syrian army and air force will take care of them.
The Syrian government again pointed out that U.S. (and Turkish) forces on its ground are uninvited and that their presence is illegal. The Russian foreign minster made the same point in a press conference today. Yesterday the Turkish president said “we mustn’t allow foreign powers intervene in Syria to serve their own interests.” (His palace seems to lack mirrors.) These are clear signals to the U.S. that its presence and that of a U.S. proxy forces in Syria will not be condoned.
President Trump had clearly said that his only interest in Syria is to get rid of ISIS:
“As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS,”
But Trump is now under the influence (or control?) of the U.S. military. The Pentagon and those forces influencing it might have their own plans. The war is mostly decided. The Syrian government will prevail. But the war is not yet over. Undesirable surprises may still come from the U.S. or other interested sides.
Adding: Several recent rumors about incidents in Syria were and are obvious fakes. Please be careful distributing wild claims when these have not been verified by a multitude of sources. The truth is: NO deconfliction line exists east of Deir Ezzor. The SAA did NOT shoot down an Israeli jet over Lebanon. NO U.S. General said that the Syrian army would be bombed if it tried to cross the Euphrates. NO attack on a SAA convoy by the U.S. airforce happened today.