Moving of chess pieces…..
The U.S. in Syria, and the looming strategic shift from ISIS to Iran
Mosul is falling. Raqqa is surrounded, with U.S.-backed forces breaching ISIS defenses. Iran-backed and Syrian regime troops are pushing eastward through Syria, reclaiming portions of Homs Province that Assad’s regime hasn’t held for years. Recent moves by the Iranian-Syrian forces put them in Deir ez-Zor Province, some 50 miles from the city of Deir ez-Zor, ISIS’s last major stronghold.
ISIS is on the run, in terms of its territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq. The scope of its geographic core has been reduced to approximately the 150 miles along the Euphrates Corridor from Deir ez-Zor, Syria to Haditha Dam Lake in Iraq, northwest of Ramadi.
The character and purpose of U.S. involvement in Syria and Iraq will have to change, as the U.S. coalition finds its purpose of recovering territory from ISIS overtaken by success. American forces have been backing the Sunni Arab rebels and Kurds in this objective for nearly three years now. The assistance was virtually all from air support – much of that wasted on prohibitive rules of engagement – until the change of administration in January, when President Trump changed the ROE and put Marines in eastern Syria for fire support to the coalition militias.
Coupled with the success of a “grand coalition” against ISIS in Mosul, the battlefield success against ISIS in eastern Syria is changing the strategic picture dramatically. The increased urgency and effectiveness of U.S. coalition operations have galvanized Iran, Russia, and Assad to accelerate their push into eastern Syria. Their objective is not the merely negative one of ridding eastern Syria of ISIS. It is to reestablish control of eastern Syria for Iran and Assad.