Syrian War Jigsaw: Iran, US-backed SDF compete to control last IS-held swath
DEIR AL-ZOR (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday stated they would repel any attack by Syrian regime forces in Deir al-Zor Province in eastern Syria.
Lilwa al-Abdallah, a spokesperson for the offensive in oil-rich Deir al-Zor Province, told Kurdistan 24 the Syrian regime rejects their presence in the areas east of the Euphrates.
“Due to adjacency of our lines with theirs, there may be attacks on our positions, but our forces [SDF] will not stand still; we will repel their attacks,” she said.
“We have the right to defend ourselves and protect our positions,” Abdallah added.
The general commander of the US-backed operation in Deir al-Zor spoke to Kurdistan 24 about the importance of the areas east to the Euphrates River and why the Syrian regime, backed by Iran, attempts to control it.
“The importance of this area is that it is a starting point and a cornerstone for an operation for liberating and clearing the entire region from the Islamic State (IS),” he said.
“We [SDF] were the first to reach the area and liberate it [from IS], but the [Syrian] regime, backed by Iranian militias, until now rejects our control of the region,” he explained.
Through its attacks on SDF points, the Syrian regime aims to weaken the latter and impede its advancement and also facilitate the movement of Iranian militias from Iraq to Syria.
But the SDF rejects this plan and has expressed its right to repel any attack.
Last month, the SDF conducted a counter-attack against Syrian regime forces who had temporarily gained control of a few villages east of the Euphrates River near the Iraq-Syria border.
In February, the SDF, backed by US airstrikes, responded to an attack by the Syrian regime allies in Deir al-Zor, killing over 100 pro-regime troops.
However, the Syrian regime had allegedly struck some agreements with the SDF over the past three years after the war against IS started in 2014.
In July 2017, The Independent newspaper, in an article by Robert Fisk, alleged that the Russians, the Syrian army, and the US-backed Kurdish YPG forces set up a secret coordination center in the eastern Syrian Desert.
Several meetings have already reportedly been held between Syrian government officials and military commanders, and their Syrian Kurdish counterparts in the more recent years of the country’s ongoing civil war.
Earlier in March 2017, a deal between the Syrian army and the SDF was disclosed in an exclusive interview with Kurdistan 24 where areas in Syria’s northwest, between Manbij and al-Bab which had been liberated by the Kurdish-led forces, were handed over to the Syrian army.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih in Deir al-Zor Province)