The Associated Press is reporting that the US military has struck Syrian government positions in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour today, as the Syrian military was involved in a battle with ISIS forces. According to the report, the US attack on Syrian troops “enabled an [ISIS] advance on the hill overlooking the air base.” There has not yet been a US confirmation of the attack, but it it is confirmed it will be the second time US forces have directly targeted Syrian government troops inside Syria. It would be the first time such an attack produced a battlefield advantage to ISIS.
According to a Tweet by AP, the Russian government says the US attack has killed 62 Syrian government troops.
Earlier today it was reported that the Syrian government had sent some 1,000 members of the elite Republican Guard into the Deir el-Zour province, as battles with ISIS in the area increase. There is no word yet on whether the Syrian troops hit by the United States were members of this Republican Guard.
This dramatic development comes as the latest ceasefire begins to crumble. Russia has condemned Washington’s refusal to implement a key component of the agreement, to press US-backed rebels to cease fighting alongside al-Qaeda; and the main US-backed “moderate” Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, has refused to take part in the ceasefire at all.
Is today’s attack a turning point in the war, where the US will begin to strike Syrian government forces more frequently? If so, how will Russia and Iran react to this overt shift in US strategy?