Both FP and MEI’s IranObserved are reporting increased tensions between Iran and the US in Syria. Last week, US forces bombed an convoy from an Iranian backed militia operating close to a “deconfliction zone” close to the Jordanian–Iraqi–Syrian border.
As Daesh continues to lose ground, while Free Syrian Army forces move North from the border with Jordan and Kurdish Forces and Arab Syrian Democratic Units move West and South, there is an increased likelihood of conflict with Iranian backed forces also moving into the region.
Adding to the pressure is that the United States has military advisors embedded with many of the groups that could come into conflict with Iranian backed forces. Iranian backed militias are being seeking to secure a land route from Baghdad to Damascus, with the idea of expanding it to Lebanon and the Mediterranean. Chances of a skirmish between forces with US advisors embedded and Iranian back militias increase daily.
In this context, it is important that the Trump Administration lay out a clear policy for what they are seeking in Syria. If the US is intent on staying out of a hot war with Iran over Syria and finding ways to continue a working relationship with them in Iraq, then it would be advisable to create goals and objectives and a strategy that will meet them. If they want a hot conflict with Iran, then stay the course.
The Trump administration has to ask itself several questions: is our goal to eliminate Daesh? Do we co-opt the Iranians, Russians, and Assad? What then becomes of our alliance with Syrian opposition forces? Can we do this while also reducing the influence of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq? What about our alliances with other Arab countries? Will those be affected? Could we challenge Iran in Syria, while not challenging Russia? Or ruining our nuclear agreement? If we give up on the opposition forces in Syria after Daesh is routed, how does that affect our standing in the region?