In Syria, New Conflict Looms as ISIS Loses Ground

In Syria, New Conflict Looms as ISIS Loses Ground by Yaroslav Trofimov - Wall Street Journal

The Syrian regime’s successful offensive in Deir Ezzour this week pushed it ahead in the race against America’s Kurdish-led allies over who will inherit Islamic State’s remaining Syrian real estate.

With the extremist group losing ground fast, President Bashar al-Assad has emerged in his strongest position since the Syrian uprising began in 2011. Yet large parts of the country remain outside his reach, including an American-protected zone run by the Kurds in northeastern Syria and a smaller Turkish occupation zone nearby.

The question now is where precisely the line between regime and Kurdish areas will be drawn after Islamic State’s defeat and whether it will solidify into a semi-permanent partition of the country or spark a new bout of violence that could force the U.S. to make difficult choices.

American military planning calls for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, currently finishing the battle to take Raqqa from Islamic State, to push further south down the Euphrates River and to seize the extremist group’s remaining cities of Mayadeen and then al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border. That contested swath of Syria also holds most of its oil and gas reserves.

This week’s blitz by the Syrian army and its Shiite militia allies to relieve a besieged garrison in Deir Ezzour could within days cut off the way for such SDF advances. Large parts of the city remain under Islamic State control…

Read on.

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