Deir Ezzor: Everyone wants it. This Syrian city has currently got the potential to be an even bigger flashpoint than Al-Tanf, right now.
The Syrian leadership wants to regain control over the city for three reasons:
– Relieve its besieged garrison;
– Re-establish its sovereignty over the Iraqi-Syrian border and its supply line;
– Gain a springboard to reconquer land on the Eastern side of the Euphrates.
The Iranians want Deir Ezzor so they can re-establish a direct route from Tehran to Damascus and move troops and hardware to the Syrian theatre much more easily as well as easily resupply its Lebanese proxy: The Hezbollah.
The Americans want Deir-Ezzor to control the Syrian-Iraqi border, weaken the Syrian leadership, weaken the Iranian position to slow down or stop its expansion in the region and prevent heavy weaponry being transferred to Hezbollah.
The Americans hoped to be able to move their Arab proxies from Al-Tanf to Deir Ezzor in an Eastward move, but the road has been cut off by the SAA, Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi militias. The Syrian with Russian help are also pushing toward the city from Palmyra but it is still a long way away.
The main focus right now is in Western and Southern Raqqa where the US Kurdish proxies and the Syrian Tiger Force are trying to cut each other off from Deir Ezzor and prevent the other side from being able to move in that direction. Those skirmishes between SAA and SDF (which are usually collaborating) represent a dangerous potential for escalation: On Sunday the 18th of June 2017, a USN F-18 Superhornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 which had just done a bombing run on SDF positions near Tabqah.
The Russian response was to announce the end of the deconfliction mechanism between the two sides and warn that every Coalition planes flying West of the Euphrates would be tracked by Russian assets in the air and on the ground. This in turn pushed the US to reposition some of their assets in the area, certainly to free more fighter jets for the Syrian theatre.
The situation is explosive and the potential for an incident high.