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Syria Today – Asma al-Assad Meets Omani Delegation; Intelligence Report Secret Meeting Between Opposition and Regime; Regime Extends UN Aid Crossings

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Asma al-Assad Meets Omani Delegation; Intelligence Report Secret Meeting Between Opposition and Regime; Regime Extends UN Aid Crossings

Syrian First Lady Mrs. Asma al-Assad met the Omani National Records and Archives Authority delegation in Damascus. Meanwhile, intelligence leaks suggest a secret between Major General Hossam Louka and opposition factions. At the same time, Syria has extended permission for the United Nations to use two additional border crossings for post-earthquake aid.

Asma al-Assad meets Omani National Records and Archives Authority delegation

The First Lady Mrs. Asma al-Assad met the Omani National Records and Archives Authority delegation who paid a few days’ visit to Syria recently for the establishment of a Syrian-Omani cooperation, SANA reported.

The meeting focused on the documents’ essential role in writing and preserving history, as their role is not only limited for that, despite its great importance, but they are an essential means for managing and regulating the present and they are part of making and possessing future, the news agency added.

Mrs. al-Assad pointed out to the great importance of documentation on various levels for both the state and the society, as the document represents our vision of events and facts and it grants us the potential of managing knowledge. It creates joint collective thinking towards these events. Without documents, the events become a mere story narrated by generations, without making benefit from their lessons.

The document, according to SANA,  also constitutes the intellectual reference which protects the identity and preserves the belonging, particularly that the war Syria has witnessed over 12 years, has affected the human being, who lives and practices the intangible heritage, in addition to the damage affected the tangible heritage, therefore documenting this heritage protects it against vanishing and continues with generations, one after another.

During the meeting, Head of the Omani delegation, Hamad bin Mohammed al-Duwayani, briefed the Syrian side on the Omani experience in organizing, managing and investing documents to regulate the work of the institutions and the state’s management with higher flexibility and referential performance.

Al-Duwayani expressed his country’s readiness to cooperate with Syria in the documentation project and preserving heritage.

Intelligence Director Hossam Louka Meets with Opposition Factions

Major General Hossam Louka, the head of the General Intelligence Department of the Assad regime, recently met with opposition factions supported by Turkey in Aleppo, according to Intelligence Online.

The meeting occurred on May 13th, 2023.

Louka presented the opposition with conditions for reconciliation, Intelligence Online added.

Prior to this, Louka and the Minister of Defense, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, travelled to Moscow on April 25 for quadripartite negotiations involving Russia, Turkey, and Iran. 

The purpose of the negotiations was to normalize relations between the Assad regime and Turkey, with discussions focusing on issues such as the return of Syrian refugees, the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian territory, and the reopening of the “M4” highway. 

During the Moscow meeting, Louka had a closed-door discussion with the head of the Turkish Intelligence Service, Hakan Fidan, resulting in an agreement to continue further discussions. 

Following the quadripartite meeting, Louka travelled to Aleppo to convey the Moscow discussions to opposition factions in northwestern Syria, with supervision from high-ranking Russian officers who came from Al-Bab. 

Major General Louka has been leading the General Intelligence Department since July 2019, and his appointment is believed to be influenced by Russia’s trust in him. 

However, he has faced allegations of human rights abuses, including his involvement in suppressing peaceful demonstrations during his time as the head of the Political Security Branch in Homs in 2012. 

He is subject to sanctions by both the European Union and the United States for his role in torturing demonstrators and committing crimes against the Syrian people.

Syria’s main insurgent group seeks to move away from al-Qaida past, get off Western terrorism lists

The Associated Press reports that the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the main insurgent group in northwest Syria, is attempting to distance his group from its al-Qaida origins and rebrand it as a more tolerant and pluralistic organization. 

Abu Mohammed al-Golani, formerly associated with al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, has cracked down on extremist factions within HTS and dissolved the religious police. 

As part of the rebranding effort, a Mass was recently performed at a church in Idlib province for the first time in over a decade, AP added. 

Al-Golani emphasized that Islamic law should not be imposed by force and pointed to Saudi Arabia’s relaxation of social controls as an example. 

However, according to AP, HTS is increasingly isolated, with countries that once backed Syrian insurgents restoring relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

The United States and the United Nations consider HTS a terrorist group, and the U.S. has offered a $10 million reward for information on al-Golani’s whereabouts. Despite the rebranding, the U.S. government maintains its stance on HTS and al-Golani.

U.S. contractor killed, 5 service members and contractor wounded in suicide drone strike in Syria

The United States launched airstrikes against Iranian-linked targets in Syria on Thursday after a U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and another contractor were wounded when a suicide drone hit a coalition base near Hasakah in the country’s northeast, NBC reported.

The intelligence community believes the drone to have been of Iranian origin, the Defense Department said in a statement.

The U.S. retaliated with airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria, which hit buildings that housed drone/aviation assets and vehicles used by groups affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). One activist group said the U.S. strikes killed fighters on the ground, the network added.

On Friday, rockets targeted the Conoco gas field in northeastern Syria, according to a U.S. official, injuring one American service member, who is in stable condition. Less than an hour later, said the officials, three suicide drones attacked the Green Village, a U.S. installation in the area. 

Two were shot down and one damaged a building. There were no injuries. Earlier Friday, a 10-rocket attack on Green Village had yielded no casualties or damage, according to U.S. officials.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday he had ordered “precision strikes” at Biden’s command against IRGC facilities.

“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” said

Syria extends permission on post-quake aid border crossings for 3 months

Syria has extended permission for the United Nations to use two additional border crossings for post-earthquake aid for three more months, a Syrian official said on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Syria “has decided to extend the permission it granted to the U.N. and its specialized agencies to use the two border crossings of Bab Alsalama and al-Ra’i for an additional period of three months ending on 13 August,” Bassam Sabbagh, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, said in a tweet.

“This decision is based on Syria’s keenness on enhancing stability and improving the living and humanitarian situation of all Syrians, and comes within its efforts to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to all those in need in all Syria,” he added.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad initially agreed to open the two crossings for three months starting on Feb. 13, a week after an earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Parts of the northwest are held by groups opposed to Assad in the 12-year-long civil war.

The U.N. said in a statement on Saturday that Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad conveyed to the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, the decision to allow the U.N. to use the crossings for an additional three months.

More than 300,000 Syrian civilians died. Any attempt to rehabilitate Assad is utterly shameful: The Guardian 

Leading UK newspaper The Guardian slammed new effort to normalize with Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The grotesque rehabilitation of Bashar al-Assad’s regime – Syria’s criminal president has been cordially invited to this week’s Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia – makes sense to cynical Arab governments. They hope to reduce Damascus’s dependence on Iran, encourage refugees to return, halt state-sponsored drug rackets and cash in on reconstruction, The Guardian stated.

The invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia is seen as a grotesque rehabilitation of his regime by cynical Arab governments. 

While these governments, The paper said, hope to reduce Syria’s dependence on Iran, encourage refugee returns, and benefit from reconstruction, from a humanitarian perspective, the decision is considered utterly shameful. 

Over 300,000 civilians have died, 14 million people have been displaced, and war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Syria. Assad faces no prospect of facing justice, while Gulf plutocrats seem more interested in their own interests than human rights. 

The U.S. and its allies’ failure to intervene in 2013 and Western sanctions aimed at toppling the regime have contributed to the ongoing crisis, the paper added.

The evolving power dynamics in the region, including Arab-Persian detente and an eastwards power shift, challenge Western dominance and leave Western policy in tatters. However, analysts caution that the situation remains unstable and that historical and religious rivalries are difficult to suppress in the long run.

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