Syrian army in race with US-armed fighters for eastern Syria

Sep 9, 2017
In this July 22, 2017 file photo, an Arab fighter, left, and Kurdish fighter, right, who fight together with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), hold their weapons as they prepare to move to the front line to battle against the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, northeast Syria. Photo by AP

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian fighters are preparing an offensive against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria along the border with Iraq. They are in a race with government forces marching in the same direction against the extremists in their last major holdout in Syria.

The dueling battles for Deir el-Zour highlight the importance of the oil-rich eastern province, which has become the latest epicenter of the international war against the Islamic State group, raising concerns of an eventual clash between the two sides.

The race to reach the Iraqi border will also shape future regional dynamics, determining whether the United States or Russia and Iran will have more influence in the strategic area once the extremist group is defeated. –AP