In the complex three cornered fight for Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria between the Russian backed Syrian army, the US backed Kurdish militia, and ISIS, the Russians and the Syrians have just taken a dramatic step to gain for themselves strategic dominance over the other two.
This takes the form of a bridge built apparently built under fire from ISIS in just two days by Russian engineers across the Euphrates river near the city of Deir Ezzor, which will make possible the sending of armoured units of the Syrian army across the Euphrates river to bring the fight against ISIS and conceivably the Kurdish militia to the territories they occupy on the river’s east bank.
Here is how the official Russian news agency TASS reports the building of the bridge
Russian road service military experts have erected a bridge across the Euphrates River, a few kilometers away from Deir ez-Zor in northeastern Syria. It will be used to deploy military equipment and troops to the eastern river bank.
The MARM small motorway panel bridge was erected in less than two days under continuous shelling, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Road Service Vladimir Burovtsev told reporters.
“Unmanned aerial vehicles were used. Explosive substances and grenades were falling on us from the air during the installation work. However, we have no losses. No injured or affected. Everything was erected in the set terms,” he specified.
The bridge is 210 meters long. It can serve 8,000 cars a day. The bridge supports heavy armored vehicles, such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and multiple-launch rocket systems, Burovtsev said. The bridge will also be used for aid convoys to liberated communities and medical evacuations.
And here is a film showing the bridge and discussing its construction produced by Russia’s television channel Rossiya 24
Though no one is publicly making the connection, I would not be in the least surprised if the recent deaths of Lieutenant General Asapov and two Russian colonels were in some way connected to the building of the bridge.
Construction of the bridge will enable the Syrian army to challenge both what is left of ISIS and the US backed Kurdish militia east of the Euphrates. This is the last remaining area of Syria where ISIS continues to maintain a significant territorial presence, and it is also being fiercely contested by the Kurdish militia, which is trying to gain control of oil and gas fields which are located there.
As recent events in Syria have shown, neither ISIS nor the Kurdish militia are capable of defeating the armoured columns of the Syrian army, especially when these are supported by the Russian air force.
The building of the bridge, which will enable the Syrian army to throw its armoured columns at them east of the Euphrates, is therefore potentially a game changer.
The only thing that can now reverse the course of events and prevent the Syrian army gaining complete control of the area would be the armed intervention of the United States.