Recently, tensions have been on the rise in Syria’s northeastern governorate of Hasakah as the pro-government National Defence Forces (NDF) have been clashing inside Qamishli with the Kurdish Asayish security police.
These skirmishes come as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Kurdish militias were formerly considered de facto allies in Hasakah province, with many villages and districts even witnessing joint checkpoints.
Less than 12 months ago, SAA soldiers and YPG troops joined forces in a counter-offensive against ISIS fighter whom had launched a major assault on the southern city gates of Hasakah.
Thus, the Qamishli clashes mark a clear deterioration in the political relations between the Syrian Government and Kurdish parties in northern Syria, largely represented by the PYD (Democratic Union Party).
Until now, ISIS has gradually been pushed back towards Raqqah and Deir Ezzor on two flanks (north and west), thus losing major strongholds such as Ain Issa, Palmyra (Tadmur) and Al-Shaddadi.
Sadly, the Qamishli clashes may prove to be a major regional game changer as anti-ISIS infighting will inevitably play into the hands of the Islamic State.
With two large government-held enclaves deep inside the largely Kurdish controlled province of Hasakah, the YPG and SDF is incentivised to attack and fully capture Qamishli and Hasakah cities as this would aid their eventual goal of establishing a regional Rojava government.
Nevertheless, government troops are still in control of approximately 50 villages south of Qamishli as many local Arabs have signed up for voluntary service with the NDF.
While the YPG and SDF are indeed eager to build a Kurdish buffer zone around Hasakah province, they are unlikely to strike at the predominately Sunni Arab city of Deir Ezzor as it hosts little to no Kurdish residents.
However, clashes are now ongoing far east of Palmyra (Tadmur) as the SAA – lead by the elite Tiger Forces – have reached the oil-rich ISIS regions near Arak en route to Deir Ezzor.
Furthermore, this spells the initial phase of a major SAA operation which ultimately aims to break the ISIS-imposed siege on Deir Ezzor.