US and Russia Tackle new Influence East of Euphrates

Last year, the US forces withdrew from half of their bases in Syria and returned later to some of them.

After successive statements by President Donald Trump, the US reinforced its presence in the oil-rich areas.

In his statements, Mr. Trump announced that the US troops’ mission would be the protection of the oil fields. The US troops have first returned to Sirin and to five other bases in northeastern Syria.

Previously, US military bases were located in 22 different regions across Syria.

2,000 US soldiers have been deployed at five posts in al-Hassaka province and the self-administration areas in addition to four posts in Deir Ezzor, where each of the Assad regime, the Iranian militias and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)having controlled part of those areas after the defeat of ISIS in Baghouz.

Other US Army personnel is distributed to five areas in Raqqa province, three in Manbij, in addition to five posts in Kobani.

The actual number of the withdrawn and deployed US soldiers never became public. Although the US administration said that 400 troops would be enough for Syria, the New York Times revealed that more than 900 US troops might be present there.

In several tweets, President Trump had stressed on expanding the role of the US troops in Syria, protecting the oil fields in eastern Syria. Local sources confirmed that the US military has dispatched the necessary materials to build two new bases in Deir Ezzor, the oil-rich area in northeastern Syria.

Assad Supporters Cross US Troops’ Way

According to reports, US patrols would be rejected in the areas controlled by Assad.

On May 28, some residents in Hassaka blocked the path of a US convoy, forcing it to return to its base. The US Army vehicle tried to pass, but the residents blocked the way and threw stones.

Last week, a Syrian Army roadblock prevented a US military convoy from passing towards the village of Umm al-Khair, forcing to retreat.

In the village of Kharbat Amo, the first military clash between residents, part of them supporting the National Defense Forces, and the US Army took place.

During the clash, a young civilian was killed.

That incident was honored by the Syrian government by sending food baskets to the villagers in return for what they have done.

Self- administration Areas, Conflict Battlefields for Foreign Forces

The self-administration areas are witnessing weekly clashes between the military forces present at those areas, whether they came with the International Coalition for fighting ISIS, or Russian troops, came at the invitation of the Syrian regime, or Turkish troops, entered Syria under the pretext of supporting the Syrian opposition loyal to them.

Sometimes, residents or the SDF interfere for disengagement, happening when people interfered to disengage a Russian and a US patrols.

A resident confirmed to MENA Research and Study Center that they were provoked by the Russians, but at the end “we were not waiting to be provoked, the Russians just assured us that we will be protected in case the clash went further,” he said.

Mutual Accusations

On May 28, the Russian Defense Ministry held the Turkistan Islamic Party responsible for bombing a Turkish convoy in Idlib.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has explicitly revealed the name of the armed group which bombed the Turkish military convoy on the M4 highway in Idlib, on May 27, knowing that the faction is officially affiliated with Ankara and does not move without its instructions.

The Center for Reconciliation between the Warring Parties in Syria, affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Defense, confirmed obtaining information indicating that militia from the Turkistan Islamic Party would be responsible for the bombing, killing a Turkish soldier.

The Center explained that those gunmen detonated an explosive device, targeting one of the convoy’s vehicles at the same time as the patrol was passing near the group’s ammunition depot.

In spite of this explicit accusation, Russian military police conducted two joint patrols with Turkish forces, the first in a number of villages east of Kobani (Ain Al-Arab) in northern Syria. The second patrol went through the cities of Qamishli and Derek, heading to the Syrian-Turkish border area east of Qamishli.

American strategy

The US insists that one of its most important strategies in foreign policy would be the presence in northeastern Syria for a long time, preventing the expansion of Iran and working to expel it from all of Syria.

Difficulties are surrounding that strategy: Washington would be unable to cover the vast area in the east of Euphrates, which would mean exposing US interests to a direct threat by the assumption that its forces could not defend an area that includes Syria’s richest oil and gas resources.

For that reason, the US administration would have to balance its relations with all relevant parties. This would include its relations with Turkey and the SDF, in order not to lose one of them. Turkey as its ally and partner in NATO, together with its geopolitical crossing to the Middle East, while SDF is its ally in the war against ISIS and protecting oil fields.

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