In a move that was immediately symbolic, but in the very short term also militarily important, the Syrian Arab Army has formally crossed the River Euphrates and is now active on the river’s east bank.
For three years and in some areas, even more, much of Syria east of the Euphrates was occupied either by ISIS and other jihadist groups or in other cases by Kurdish proxies of the United States. This brings Syria one step closer to the Syrian goal of liberating “every inch of Syria” but it also re-affirms that the major conflict to come will not be between Syria and ISIS, but between Syria and the Kurdish led SDF proxy militia.
ISIS has already been largely beaten in Deir ez-Zor, their last major stronghold in the country. While further battles are indeed ahead for the Syrian Arab Army in this respect, the question of a final ISIS defeat in Deir ez-Zor is now a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Furthermore, the consensus answer is that the defeat will come incredibly soon.
Syria has already re-stated an obvious legal point that the SDF is a renegade enemy element operating on legal Syrian territory and will be treated as such.
While Russia is attempting to use its diplomatic tact to keep both sides separated as much as possible, Russia respects the fact that it has a limited mandate in this respect. If Russian troops were to go against the wishes of Syria in acting as a kind of policeman among armies in the country, it would also be violating Syria’s sovereignty. Russia will of course not do this as Russia fully respects Syria’s sovereignty, above holding a desire to avoid further conflict whenever possible.
For Syria, the next move is simple: continuing to liberate further parts of Deir ez-Zor before concentrating the next big military push against the next target for liberation. Russia accepts this, within days or at the most, weeks, the world will see how the US responds.