Iranian forces in eastern Syria have found themselves in the midst of another round of Isis attacks. Isis has also blocked Tehran’s route to Damascus at the Iraqi border in the aftermath of Isis’s attack on the Syrian regime’s forces and the Iran-backed militias within the area.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 21 dead in Badia due to battles between the Syrian regime and Isis militants near the International Coalition military base Al-Tanf, in Homs province. Al-Tanf also witnessed a series of attacks and clashes between the regime and its supporters on one hand and Isis militants on the other. Five pro-regime militants and 16 Isis members died during the fight.
International pressure during the past year has pushed Tehran to withdraw many of its militants from the area, which was previously under the control of Iran’s forces. Activist Abdulla Hassan of Deir ez-Zor told 7DNews that Iran’s forces “are no longer able to cover the entire geographical area, whilst the regime’s forces retain a small number of fighters after the regime pulled most of them to the north in preparation for the battle of Idlib.”
Hassan said that Tehran’s inability to recruit loyal fighters from Iraq “has produced a significant gap for Tehran’s military presence in the region.” He pointed out that the presence of Iran’s militias “does not exceed the hundreds.” The regime’s forces are also affiliated with Russian-led Syrian forces in the area.
Isis, on the other hand, controls a small enclave east of the Euphrates Rivers and continuously clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces. Isis also has groups of armed militants in the desert launching attacks against regime forces and Iran-backed militias to the west of the Euphrates.
A Deir ez-Zor resident told 7Dnews that it is hard to get rid of the Isis militants plaguing the area as they do not live in known military positions. The militants have formed small groups that utilise hit-and-run war tactics.
This is the same tactic Isis militants used in their last attack on regime forces and Iranian-backed militants in the area. The attack, which began with Isis’s infiltration of the Euphrates River region, culminated in an assault on the outskirts of Abu Kamal in Deir ez-Zor province.
Last month there were violent clashes around the village of Al Dwir in Eastern Deir ez-Zor between regime forces and both Iranian militias and Isis. According to Hassan, the reduction in the number of Iranian-backed fighters has helped create large military loopholes for Isis members to escape and form shell groups. Hassan also pointed out that the level of violent clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces that consistently break out around the Euphrates River has forced Isis to seek another safe haven as a stronghold.
On the eastern banks of the Euphrates River, the town of Hajin bears witness to some of the most violent attacks since the start of the US-led coalition against Isis’s latest campaign. Twenty-eight Isis militants have been killed so far, three of whom were suicide bombers who blew themselves up with booby-trapped vehicles. The Syrian Democratic Forces have made significant strides in the region, killing nine of the 28 Isis militants so far.
Fifteen civilian families have been displaced from their homes near the oil tank field around the Isis-controlled enclave. This continues a trend of families escaping from Isis-controlled areas and fleeing to areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.