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In spite of coming under constant attack from ISIS, Russian military engineers have build a bridge across the Euphrates in Deir ez-Zor, which is capable of handling 8,000 vehicles per day including large trucks and tanks.
While the rapid construction of the strong river bridge is being rightly touted as a remarkable achievement against considerable odds, it also represents an important strategic and even geo-political development in the wider context of the Syrian conflict.
Prior to the battle for Deir ez-Zor, there were whispers that Russia had consigned itself to remain west of the Euphrates in respect of its anti-terrorist battles in Syria. Implicit in this theory was that Syria would not venture east of the Euphrates, which had generally been a US and US proxy dominated area.
Officially, Syria has always maintained that it seeks to liberate “every inch” of its territory and that further more, all uninvited foreign powers and unofficial militias (such as the SDF) are illegal entities which are classed as enemies of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Far from leaving Syria to fight alone east of the Euphrates, Russia is now actively assisting Syrian troops east of the river in Deir ez-Zor. Thus, the building of the bridge increasingly confirms that Russia will stand alongside the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force as it continues to push east and north, liberating legal Syrian territory from terrorist groups and foreign occupiers.
It is no coincidence that the Syrian-Russian push east of the Euphrates has come at a time when there is mounting evidence of tripartite battlefield and intelligence collusion between ISIS, the Kurdish led US proxy militia SDF and US forces.
Nor is it a coincidence that it is becoming increasingly apparent that mutual enemies of both Syria and Russia were responsible for leaking information to ISIS which resulted in the targeted killing of the martyred Russian officer Valery Asapov.
While Russia has never deliberately targeted US proxies apart from jihadist groups, now it seems that all US proxies, including jihadist groups are systematically targeting Syrian and Russian troops. This is all the more apparent when one understands that Raqqa has been partly abandoned by the US and SDF in order to move troops and supplies to Deir ez-Zor.
There is no morally justifiable strategic reason for the US to be doing this. If there was truly something even approaching a mutual understanding about the US and its proxies along with Syria and its allies fighting ISIS in a semi-coordinated fashion, the US could continue to concentrate on Raqqa, where little real progress has been made, while Syria and Russia concentrate on Deir ez-Zor, where considerable progress has been made in spite of attacks from both ISIS and the SDF.
The only strategic reason for the US to move its proxies to Deir ez-Zor at such a time is to compete for territory with Syria and its allies and this is of course what is blatantly happening.
In June of this year, Russia stated that its forces would target any US or allied aircraft west of the Euphrates unless such moves were coordinated with Syria and her genuine partners. What was not said and what legally did not need to be said, is that Syria and her allies have the full right to operate in all parts of Syria, including east of the Euphrates. If the US thought that Russia would some how reject international law and stop Syria from exercising its right to liberate all of its territory, the US was simply being foolish.
Syria has strategically liberated parts of Syria in their order of manifest importance. It was only a matter of time before areas east of the Euphrates and Deir ez-Zor in particular, would be the next terrorist domino for Syria to push over.
Any wishful thinking on the US part that Russia would either abandon or go against Syria in this unfolding struggle, was delusional. In reality, the US may well have been leading Russia on with words of ‘cooperation’ that never amounted to a great deal, knowing that it was in fact inevitable that as soon as Syria reached the Euphrates, Syria’s Russian ally would cross the river with Syrian troops.
In this sense, while things are ever more dangerous in respect of a direct US-Russian confrontation, in the wider sense, it is the US that is losing ground. The US has gone from a policy of hard regime change, to one of soft regime change, to one of a presumed semi-permanent occupation of eastern Syria without regime change in Damascus, to the current position of being outflanked by Syria and Russia, even in eastern Syria.
The next possible move for the US might be to concentrate on northern areas dominated by Kurdish militants and radicals, but the precedent being set in Iraq at this very moment may lead the US to question the wisdom of such a position.
With Iraqi and Turkish troops conducting joint military exercises and with Turkey promising an economic embargo against Kurdish regions of Iraq at best and a full scale military intervention if this does not hold back secessionists, the US may realise that if it thinks it can carve Syria up along Kurdish nationalist lines, that Turkey will not sit idly and watch it happen, not least because Turkey’s relationship with Syrian Kurds is even worse than its relations with Iraqi Kurds which at one time was surprisingly good. In this sense, if the US goes full-throttle for Syrian Kurdish separatism, the US would retain her current opponents in Syria while gaining many angry new ones, including and especially NATO member Turkey.
Just as the 1951 Chinese Spring Offensive during the Korean War, pushed US allied troops back below the 38th parallel, the current Syria-Russian offensive in Deir ez-Zor could begin to squeeze the US out of much of eastern Syria and back to the Iraqi border.
With 85% of Syria already back under government control, a strategic and symbolic victory for Syria is already in the making. The question is, how much are the US and her proxy forces willing to fight back and expend further blood in this process?
The bigger question therefore no longer reads, “Is the US at war with Russia in Syria”? The question now is, “How will the US respond to its inevitable loss”?