The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and forces loyal to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are currently embroiled in a violent battle in the city of Hasakah, located in northeast Syria. It’s not the first time the two have clashed, but what makes this particularly alarming is that US forces are now embedded with the YPG, who comprise the largest contingent of the anti-Daesh (ISIS) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
In light of regime airstrikes targeting the YPG close to nearby US troops, the Pentagon (headquarters of the US Department of Defense) warned the Assad regime Friday to not attack near US forces, The Wall Street Journal reports. Will the regime listen? And if not, will the US attack Assad’s air force?
According to The Wall Street Journal, the US put fighter jets in the airspace above Hasakah after the airstrikes. They encountered Syrian jets, and no incidents have yet to occur. However, the journal reported “Thursday’s event marked one of the closest calls he knew of between U.S. coalition forces in Syria and the military of President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian conflict began in 2011,” quoting a Pentagon spokesman.
If the aforementioned encounter is any indication, perhaps there won’t be any conflict between the US and the Syrian regime. But their leaders president Assad and president Barack Obama don’t exactly get along. And Syrian warplanes were reported in the Hasakah area again today, showing that the conflict there is not over.
On the other hand, though Assad has been much more successful in the war since Russia entered last November, it might not make much sense for him to fight with the US directly, especially since the YPG is not the threat to his regime that some rebel groups are.
If the US and Syria were to fight directly, it would have profound effects on the US’s potential coordination with Russia to fight jihadist groups, Russia’s cooperation with the YPG, and the potential for a political settlement to end the conflict.
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