The U.S. is on a "collision course" with Iran and Russia in a key territory of Syria once the battle to root ISIS out of its de-facto capital, Raqqa, is complete, per Anne Barnard of the NY Times.
What we're watching: The competition to control Syrian territory post-ISIS. The province in question, Deir al-Zour, boasts oil reserves and could serve as a land bridge to connect Iran to Syria, and eventually neighboring Lebanon, Hezbollah's base. Russia just announced it will treat U.S. planes west of the Euphrates as targets, signaling it's ready to stand with the regime against the U.S. after weeks of encouraging both to avoid clashing.
- See Axios' Lazaro Gamio's map of the conflict over time here.
Why it matters: Uprooting ISIS amid the civil war could lead to a power vacuum, and if the U.S. goes on the offensive it risks a full on confrontation with Iran — and maybe Russia and the Syrian regime — and potentially risks sparking tensions with Iraq, Qatar, and Yemen.