U.S.-Backed Coalition in Syria Strikes Pro-Assad Forces, nytimes.com

The American-backed coalition in Syria said Thursday that it had repelled an attack by forces supporting the Assad government, carrying out deadly strikes in a rare confrontation between competing factions that have both fought the Islamic State.

The clash, on Wednesday night, occurred in an area of eastern Syria where government troops and their allies have competed with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, allied with the United States, to seize territory rich in oil and natural gas. The fighting offered a glaring example of the new risks posed by a host of combatants in the region, including Iran, Russia, Syria, Turkey and the United States, who, though wary of one another, had a shared interest in defeating the Islamic State. Now that the militant group has been driven from most of its territory, the conflicting interests are leading to increasing friction and unpredictable escalations, like Turkey’s recent assault on aKurdish-controlled region[…]

At the United Nations, Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia of Russia said he intended to raise the American airstrikes during closed consultations of the Security Council. But there was little or no expectation that the council, long divided over the Syria conflict, would issue a statement on the airstrikes. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Nebenzia rejected the American explanation that the airstrikes had been carried out for defensive reasons.

“We were invited by the government of Syria to fight terrorists since 2015,” he said. “The U.S. was never invited to Syria. So who is the aggressor, tell me?”

Aaron David Miller, a Middle East analyst at the Wilson Center, said the forces backing the Syrian government seemed to be testing the coalition’s resolve. But, he added, it was not clear whether the clash marked a new phase of the war in which the United States and its allies would enter more direct confrontation with forces loyal to Mr. Assad.

“We’re now protecting a territory the size of Indiana and deepening our commitment to the S.D.F., with no sense of where this is going, no sense of strategy, no sense of endgame,” said Mr. Miller, who was a State Department official in Republican and Democratic administrations. Läs artikel