Testing Trump: Assad Gathers Militias Along the Euphrates Across From U.S. Forces

FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2015 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, looks on, at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia. For five years fighting has raged in Syria -- a globally resonant nightmare kept going in part by the insistence of Bashar Assad’s opponents that he must go even though they were failing to dislodge him from power. Now an inflection point may finally be at hand, with increasingly important Turkey suggesting Assad could play a role in an unspecified transition period. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

CNN reported that Pro-Assad forces have gathered on the east side of the Euphrates river near Deir ez Zor. Just a month ago militias and mercenaries loyal to Bashar al-Assad attacked American Special Forces and their anti-Islamic State proxy the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). 

The “battle” happened on Valentine’s Day, but by all accounts sounded more like a massacre. The Russians denied any involvement in the attack raising some questions as to just how much control Moscow has in Syria. This also comes after an alleged string of chemical weapons attacks and brutal campaign by Assad to retake the opposition enclave in Eastern Ghouta. Assad is testing the White House and the last time the regime tested this administration it turned out to be a miscalculation. 

America and the SDF have halted operations targeting what’s left of the greatly diminished Islamic State in Syria. The Euphrates serves as a natural boundary for the US to create a buffer zone so that Iraq can rebuild after ISIS came in from Syria in 2014. It makes no sense to leave just to watch it all collapse again as Assad has proven time and again he can not control his own Eastern Desert. The Kurds and Arabs who live East of the Euphrates have co-existed in relative peace since the SDF took control of the area.

https://twitter.com/afarinmamosta/status/970779564199829506

However, the next day it was reported 1700 SDF fighters took off for Afrin to fight against a Turkish incursion into the autonomous Kurdish enclave. If true this means 1700 trained fighters went to help the Kurdish Marxist known as the People’s Protection Unit (PKK) which is a designated terror organization according to the United States Government. Something Ankara will absolutely not tolerate as it has been fighting the PKK since 1984.

Crossing the Euphrates has been somewhat of a pornographic fantasy for militias loyal to Assad. Youtube, rightly removed a video title “Tiger Force Crosses the Euphrates” which was blatant propaganda but it can still be found in the dark conspiracy corners of the internet like LiveLeaks. There’s a good chance this is all a stunt, but besides giving Assad the impression that the US is somehow vulnerable East of the Euphrates because almost 2000 SDF fighter went to Afrin it also complicates an already strained relationship between Turkey and the United States. 

The situation is tense along the Euphrates and all parties involved are on edge. The US has signaled clearly it isn’t crossing the Euphrates to intervene to stop the butchering of civilians in Ghouta, but at the same time making it obvious they have no interest in leaving Eastern Syria until they are good and ready. If Assad is poised to try crossing the Euphrates the smart money would be on the bet that Iran is orchestrating it all through their militia network in Syria. Redstate will provide with updates as they occur.