A Syrian government soldier gives a victory sign while looking out over east Aleppo, November 2016.
Sana Sana / Reuters

The game for who will rule eastern Syria after the Islamic State (or ISIS) is on. On May 18, the United States destroyed a military convoy allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after it ignored repeated warnings to stop its advance on al-Tanf, a U.S. and British special operations base on the Syrian-Jordanian border. The base is covered under the October 2015 U.S.-Russian deconfliction agreement, which established a hotline for avoiding direct military confrontation between Russian- and U.S.-backed forces in Syria. This came a few days after the Russian base at Khmeimim had declared that its air force, along with Iranian military advisers, would support Assad’s troops in their attempt to push east, clearing the road from Damascus to Baghdad and preventing the formation of a U.S.-supported buffer zone in eastern Syria. All of this followed Washington’s announcement on May 9 that it would

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