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Executive Summary for June 19th

We review key events in Syria, including reports that Syrian and Iraqi troops have joined up across the border, a U.S. fighter jet shooting down a Syrian warplane and claims that Tehran launched missiles against a command base of the so-called Islamic State in Syria.

Published on June 19, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Syrian, Iraqi Forces Link Up Across Border

Syrian troops and allied militias met up with Iraqi forces for the first time in years at a border crossing on their shared frontier Sunday, the Associated Press reported, citing pro-government media and an independent monitor.

Iraqi and Syrian forces met at a crossing point northeast of Tanf, a strategic Syrian border crossing with Iraq on the Baghdad-Damascus highway, where U.S. troops and Syrian opposition fighters are based, a Syrian general told the pro-government al-Ikhbariya TV channel. According to the unnamed general, the new meeting point is roughly 12 miles (20km) from al-Mayadeen, a city held by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in eastern Syria.

The development comes one day after Iraqi forces dislodged ISIS militants from the al-Waleed border crossing point with Syria, located near the Tanf base. The United Kingdom-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the Iraqi forces had moved northeast of al-Waleed, meeting up with pro-Syrian troops for the first time since 2015.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of SOHR, told the Associated Press that the link between Iraqi and Syrian forces will enable Iraqi fighters, including pro-Iran militias, to move inside Syria, joining the Syrian government’s campaign against ISIS in eastern Syria.

Sunday’s development comes just over a week after Syrian troops and allied forces reached the Iraqi border in southeastern Syria and nearly three weeks after Iraq’s paramilitary forces reached the Syrian border in northeastern Iraq.

U.S. Downs Syrian Warplane

A U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian army warplane in the southern Raqqa countryside on Sunday, Reuters reported, citing pro-government media and U.S. central command.

Sunday’s attack marks the first time the U.S. has shot down a Syrian warplane since the start of the conflict in 2011.

A statement issued by U.S. Central Command said the plane was downed “in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces.”

According to the statement, the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near positions of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the town of Tabqa, before it was immediately shot down.

A Syrian army statement released on Syrian state television said that the Syrian warplane was allegedly flying a mission against ISIS before it crashed.

Sunday’s incident marks the latest escalation in tension between the two countries. Ten days ago, U.S. coalition forces downed a pro-government drone in the southeastern town of Tanf. U.S. warplanes have also carried out several strikes against pro-government forces over the past few weeks.

Iran Targets ISIS in Eastern Syria

Tehran has fired several missiles targeting the so-called Islamic State in Syria, in retaliation for a twin attack on the Iranian capital earlier this month, Al Jazeera reported Sunday.

Medium-range missiles fired from the western Iranian provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdestan targeted an ISIS command base in Deir Ezzor, killing several militants and destroying weapons and equipment, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said in a statement Sunday.

The strike came roughly two weeks after ISIS claimed responsibility for the June 7 attacks on Iran’s parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran that left 17 people dead.

Tehran has provided advisers, fighters, volunteers, militias, weapons and money to pro-government forces in Syria but it has never targeted the country with this kind of strike in the past.

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