The assault on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, is about to begin, and the end of ISIS is in sight. But so is the end of the tacit tactical alliance between Iran and the United States.
For a time, the old adversaries cooperated against their common enemy. The United States provided the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed Shiite militias with air support to help them seize control over the Iraqi cities of Tikrit in April 2015 and large parts of Mosul by February 2017. However, as these same Iraqi Shiite militias pursue fleeing ISIS elements to oil-rich Deir Ezzour in neighboring Syria, they confront United States special-operations forces and an American-backed coalition of Syrian rebel groups.
In Iraq, the U.S. is working with Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias in a joint struggle against ISIS. In Syria however, the United States supports the moderate opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Iran and its Shiite proxies are engaged in a relentless effort to eliminate opposition forces and secure the survival of the very same regime.
On Tuesday, June 6, U.S.-led coalition fighter jets bombed Syrian government soldiers and, according to some reports, Shiite Iraqi militia members in the al-Tanf region in southeastern Homs province, where since May 2015 a contingent of U.S. troops has been training Syrian opposition forces. It was the second time in less than a month that coalition forces had attacked Syrian regime forces and their allies as they headed toward the al-Tanf garrison. On May 18, coalition planes pounded a convoy headed toward al-Tanf.