The eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor is the backbone of the country’s petroleum extraction industry and a productive and blooming farming area. It is an economic treasure.
All monitors of the Syrian situation realize two main facts about the province of Deir Ezzor. First, all the players in Syria are willing to gain control over the province so that they can have their share from the oil and other resources. Its size and strategic location makes it like a magnet attracting all those who are interested and ambitious about economic investments. Second, this area (Deir Ezzor) will witness the biggest anti-Daesh battle, and this is what can be deduced based on the facts on the ground. The group has begun to slowly withdraw towards it.
The battles of Ramadi, Faluja and later Mosul will force the organization to station its forces in the western areas in Iraq and the eastern areas in Syria, as this would facilitate its operations because they are vast swaths of lands, which are difficult to be taken over.
The Euphrates River divides Deir Ezzor into two parts: al-Shamiya and al-Jazeera, each of which has its own dialect, located north and south of the river.
The popular support for Daesh in the northern part of Deir Ezzor is limited after the group has perpetrated horrific massacres in there so far and had fought several battles before, making it a suicide for Daesh to use it as its main stronghold in the region. It is an open area extending to Hasakah province, where the anti-Daesh military faction known as the Syrian Democratic Forces are operating. These forces can easily receive supplies and reinforcements in the Hasakah province as it is the area where their popular support is concentrated, not to forget some other factions who had fought Daesh north Deir Ezzor before they retreated to Hasakah.
The southern part of Deir Ezzor is the easiest for the organization for many reasons, among them are: It is near the Iraqi border, making it a safe haven for organizations like Daesh. In there, it has the ability to move freely and relocate its forces, mainly in the areas between al-Ishaara and the outskirts of al-Bukamal. Al-Ishaara is the stronghold for one of the anti-Daesh brigades; Al-Bukamal is also strategic as it gives the advantage for the group to freely move between Iraq and Syria.
The battle of Deir Ezzor is mainly reliant on the international forces and the way they perceive it. Perhaps, the strategic stance on the battle of Deir Ezzor has changed, mainly after the failure experienced by the coalition forces, as now they want to deploy boots on the ground, despite the fact that disagreements between Russia and the USA makes such a step speculative.
The Americans, who are depended on Kurds in several areas in northern Syria, are fully aware of the reality that they cannot repeat the same scenario in Deir Ezzor due to historical, ethnical and ideological differences. They would only create new enemies, as the tribal environment characterising Deir Ezzor stands in the face of any kind of Kurdish intervention in the province, although, for them, Daesh and the Kurds remain incomparable.
Therefore, the USA has begun searching for new allies in the region; however, it has not succeeded so far, even though there are multiple factions with different names operating in Syria at the current time, because the US does not trust yet these factions, and also because the objectives of the latter remain unclear and ambiguous.
It should be pointed out that most Syrian factions consider fighting against the Assad-regime as one of the top priorities of their struggle; they do not want to focus on Daesh only.
This failure has led the USA to form a new alliance to fight Daesh on the ground; however, no such plan has appeared yet. The presence of French and German forces in Syria, and the announcement of Norway that it will deploy its troops as well, all indicate that the American stance on the battle against Daesh has really changed.
Russia sees things differently. It wants the regime and its loyalists, backed by Russian air force, to be the ones in charge of launching such a battle in Deir Ezzor. They have also attempted to convince the western alliance to provide them with support. The main issue facing such a strategy is the popular support, which keeps rejecting any roles by Assad and his forces with regards to liberation of their areas from Daesh. For them, it is just a different type of occupation. They also think that a Russian intervention would only strengthen Daesh by pushing many angry civilians who are opposed to the regime and its militias to join the organisation, amid propaganda and despair experienced by most of the Syrian youth.
The race to Syria’s Deir Ezzor sums up the problem of foreign intervention in Syria. However, all the players believe that the decisive battle against Daesh will take place in Deir Ezeor, where there is oil, field of wheat and cotton…
Will the battle in Deir Ezzor turn into a regional conflict in light of a sharp disagreement between the international forces and those on the ground?
Original article in Arabic: http://www.alhayat.com/m/story/16570655