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Rocky Road to Peace: Deir Ez-Zor Will Fall, But War Not Over Yet

© Sputnik / Mikhail Alayeddin / Go to the mediabankTroops of the Syrian 5th Army Corps join Syrian army units in the south of Deir ez-Zor following the breaking of the ISIL blockade at the main entrance to the city in the south
Troops of the Syrian 5th Army Corps join Syrian army units in the south of Deir ez-Zor following the breaking of the ISIL blockade at the main entrance to the city in the south - Sputnik International
With Syrian government forces tightening their noose around the sections of Deir ez-Zor still controlled by terrorists, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the liberation of the city will be a crushing defeat for Daesh. Yet, the fall of Deir ez-Zor will hardly be able to put an end to the war any time soon, a military expert told Sputnik.

Weakened as they are, however, the terrorists still remain a force to be reckoned with, staging regular flanking attacks including with explosives-laden “Jihadmobiles.”

“Deir ez-Zor will be a tough nut to crack as the most battle-worthy and best-armed Daesh fighters are all there, turning the parts of the city they still control into fortresses,” military expert Anatoly Tsyganok told Sputnik.

That being said, the Syrian Army has come a long way since 2015. This is in part due to Russian instructors training about 20 full brigades, including those who took Aleppo and know how to fight in an urban setting.

Tanks of the Syrian Army at combat positions in Deir ez-Zor - Sputnik International
The Noose Closes Round Daesh in Deir ez-Zor: Syrian Army Crosses the Euphrates
“I don’t think the fall of Deir-ez-Zor will end the war as there are still many people in Syria who support Daesh. There are other terrorist groups too, so in the next couple of years we are going to see sporadic fighting flaring up here and there. I still believe that we can stop this, just like we did in the safe zones,” Tsyganok added.

In August, Syrian government forces, backed by Russian aviation, liberated the town of Al-Sukhnah, overlooking the strategic M20 highway which connects Deir ez-Zor with Palmyra, and are now moving northeast methodically flushing out jihadist militants on both sides of the highway.

Meanwhile, the Russian Aerospace Forces and warships in the Mediterranean are clearing the way for the advancing Syrian government forces with airstrikes and cruise missile attacks.

On September 14, the submarines Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino from the Russian Black Sea Fleet hit command centers, communication hubs, as well as ammunition depots in Daesh-controlled areas to the east of the city of Deir ez-Zor.

Mopping Up Idlib

It looks like expanding the security zones is exactly what the Syrian government is going to do after Deir ez-Zor has been liberated.

According to Chief of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Col.-Gen. Igor Korobov, there are more than 9,000 al-Nusra terrorists in Idlib who are trying to establish their control over the region.

He added that there are an estimated additional 15,000 al-Nusra militants currently fighting all over Syria.

On September 4, a member of the Syrian government delegation at the Astana talks, Fateh Hassoun, said that the Syrian opposition supported the idea of setting up a fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib.

He added, however, that even if an agreement to this effect is reached, its implementation could be seriously hampered by the presence of Al-Nusra Front terrorists in the northern province.

After the fall of Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace Forces are likely to focus on flushing out the remaining terrorists and restore law and order in and around the province.

Syrian government forces gesture and inspect the site as they arrive to a destroyed bridge on a road between the Kabajeb and Al-Shula on the southwestern outskirts of Deir Ezzor on September 8, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists - Sputnik International
Situation With Russia, US Forces in Deir Ez-Zor 'Well Worked Out' - McGurk
Meanwhile, the problem of proximity between US-led and Russian-backed forces in the Syrian town of Deir ez-Zor has been worked out quite well, US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk said at a news briefing at the United Nations on Friday.

He added that deconfliction talks between the United States and Russia have led to significant improvement in terms of mitigating the risk of accidental clashes in Syria.

The United States, Russia, Iran and other players are running out of room to avoid direct conflicts as territory ruled by the Daesh terrorist group  shrinks and fighting becomes more intense.

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