There are so many competing groups in Syria that it’s rarely possible for a force to move against another without bringing them into conflict with some third faction. That’s increasingly the case in the Euphrates Valley, where the fight against ISIS is turning into a regular minefield of conflicting factions.
Fighting against ISIS has been tricky business for awhile, with the US backing the Kurdish YPG, Turkey backing its own set of rebels, and the Syrian military having its own force. Now, with the YPG fighting in Raqqa, the Syrian forces are positioning themselves into strategic areas nearby, and tensions are rising.
Syria’s primary interest is to hold a corridor from Iraq’s border to Damascus, giving a route to Iraqi Shi’ite militias into the country to join the ISIS war. The US, however, has repeatedly attacked pro-Syrian forces in the border area, complaining they’re too close to another US-backed rebel faction’s base at al-Tanf.
On Sunday, this tension came to a potential boil, with the US shooting down a Syrian Su-22 bomber in the area, supposedly to project to YPG. This has led Russia to threaten to target US planes that stray west of the Euphrates. The US has already responded by shooting down an Iranian drone near Tanf today, which is just adding to concerns that this war is about to get a lot bigger, and a lot more complicated, than it already was.
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