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Syria Today – Iran’s Proxies Scale Back Attacks

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Iran’s Proxies Scale Back Attacks

After U.S. Strikes, Iran’s Proxies Scale Back Attacks on American Bases

Iran has made a concerted effort to rein in militias in Iraq and Syria after the United States retaliated with a series of airstrikes for the killing of three U.S. Army reservists this month, the New York Times reported.

Initially, there were regional concerns that the tit-for-tat violence would lead to an escalation of the Middle East conflict. But since the Feb. 2 U.S. strikes, American officials say, there have been no attacks by Iran-backed militias on American bases in Iraq and only two minor ones in Syria.

Before then, the U.S. military logged at least 170 attacks against American troops in four months, Pentagon officials said.

The relative quiet reflects decisions by both sides and suggests that Iran does have some level of control over the militias.

The Biden administration has made clear that Tehran would be held accountable for miscalculations and operations by proxy forces, but it has avoided any direct attack on Iran. The U.S. response “may be having some effect,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a retired head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, said in an interview.

“The question is are the militias attacking or not,” he added, “and at least for now, they are not.”

The lull also marks a sharp turnaround by Iran. Tehran had for months directed its regional proxies in Iraq and Syria to attack American bases in the Middle East as part of a wider battle against Israel, which is fighting Hamas in Gaza.

The American and Iranian officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.


UN Official Highlights Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Syria, Calls for Renewed International Support

The humanitarian situation in Syria, already grappling with the aftermath of devastating earthquakes and a prolonged conflict, has reached an unprecedented crisis level, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths, warned during a Security Council briefing Tuesday.

Reflecting on the first anniversary of the February 2023 earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria, Griffiths expressed deep condolences to the families who suffered losses and acknowledged the global support that followed. Yet, he emphasized that the situation in Syria, on the brink of its 13th year of conflict, requires much more sustained effort, especially in providing essential services and adequate shelter for the displaced.

Griffiths painted a grim picture of Syria’s current state, with 16.7 million people—nearly three-quarters of the nation’s population—now in dire need of humanitarian assistance, marking the highest number since the conflict began. The expansion of hostilities, recent attacks, and the shutdown of vital facilities due to strikes have severely impacted civilians, causing displacement, casualties, and a significant reduction in access to electricity, water, and essential services. This has led to heightened food insecurity and malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups, including children, and pregnant and lactating women.

The Under-Secretary-General also highlighted the challenges in delivering humanitarian aid due to access restrictions and security concerns. Despite these obstacles, he noted the Syrian government’s recent authorization for the UN to use the Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee border crossings for an additional three months, a move that facilitates the delivery of much-needed assistance to millions each month.


Jordan arrests dozens in crackdown against drug smuggling from Syria

Jordan’s security forces foiled several drug smuggling attempts across the kingdom in the past days, in the latest crackdown against the trade that has flourished in recent years, Al-Monitor reportes

The Public Security Directorate announced in a statement on Tuesday that the Anti-Narcotics Department has launched nationwide operations against drug smuggling, arresting 23 people allegedly involved in drug trafficking, distribution and smuggling.

One of the most prominent cases involves an attempt to smuggle 1.5 million narcotic pills to an unnamed neighboring country. The directorate said security forces seized the drugs that were found in a shipping vehicle and arrested six people involved in the case. The directorate did not specify where this operation took place.

Security forces also conducted raids in the northern town of Ajloun and Mafraq governorate in the north, in the capital Amman, as well as in the governorates of Mafraq and Maan in the south. Several people were arrested and various types of narcotic pills, cannabis, methamphetamine, as well as firearms were confiscated.

The directorate continued that a person was arrested during an operation at the Jaber border crossing with southern Syria, after 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of methamphetamine were found in his possession. Security forces also apprehended an individual who attempted to smuggle 70,000 narcotic pills in the same area.


Turkey’s MIT Kills top  a Kurdish Women Leader in Syria

The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) eliminated Syrian national Emine Seyid Ahmed, one of the commanders of YPJ, an all-female wing of the group  security sources said on Tuesday. Ahmed, also known as Azadi Derik, was eliminated in a “precision operation” in Syria’s Qamishli, a stronghold of the  group’s Syrian wing YPG.

Ahmed was among the masterminds of attacks targeting Turkish security forces, sources said. She was already on a target list of Turkish intelligence services.

Sources said Ahmed was involved in attacks targeting security forces in the Operation Olive Branch area, where the Turkish army launched cross-border operations in 2018. The area covers most of northeastern Syria, immediately across the Turkish-Syrian border. Ahmed’s actions caused the deaths of a large number of soldiers and she was also behind cross-border rocket attacks that targeted Kilis, a southern Turkish province on the border, security sources said.

Ahmed joined the group in 2011, the year when a civil war broke out in Syria. She was trained in PKK camps in neighboring Iraq. After a brief stay there, she returned to Syria. Ahmed was also among the members of PKK’s so-called “Health Committee” and was a senior figure of the YPJ. She was injured in a shootout with Turkish security forces in the past but escaped.


No longer afraid of sparking war, Israel takes gloves off against IRGC in Syria

The Times of Israel published an article discussing a significant escalation in Israel’s military campaign in Syria, particularly against Iran-linked targets and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Here’s a summary and analysis:

Since October 7, coinciding with conflicts involving Gaza and attacks from Iran-backed groups, Israel has intensified its air campaign against Iran-sponsored entities in Syria. This campaign now includes targeted assassinations of Iranian officials, marking a strategic shift in Israel’s approach. The frequency and nature of these strikes suggest a more aggressive stance by Israel, aiming to disrupt Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.

The article highlights recent Israeli operations, including the killing of IRGC officers and Hezbollah members. These operations indicate a move beyond attacking weapon transfers to directly targeting senior figures within Iran-backed groups. This strategy change is attributed to Israel’s perception of having “little to lose” in more assertively countering Tehran’s influence in Syria, especially amidst ongoing regional conflicts.

Experts believe these intensified actions are altering the dynamics on the ground, forcing Iran and its allies to reconsider their positioning and strategies in Syria. The Israeli campaign is seen as successfully putting Iran and Hezbollah on the defensive, with significant redeployments and a reduction in their ability to mount attacks from the Syrian Golan.

Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for all specific strikes but acknowledges targeting arms shipments to Iran-backed groups. The rationale for these intensified operations is linked to broader regional conflicts and the desire to limit Iran’s military capabilities and influence in Syria. This approach also reflects a calculated risk, assuming a limited capacity for Iran and Hezbollah to retalitatively escalate the conflict significantly.

Israel’s recent military actions in Syria represent a significant escalation aimed at undermining Iran’s military entrenchment and influence. By targeting senior IRGC and Hezbollah figures, Israel is sending a clear message about its willingness to confront Iranian influence more directly. This strategy, while risky, is seen by some experts as effectively deterring Iran’s activities in Syria, though it contributes to the complexity of the regional security landscape.

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