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Syria Today – Israel Bombs Syria and Lebanon, Kaani Requested Pause on U.S. Personnel

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Israel Bombs Syria and Lebanon, Kaani Requested Pause on U.S. Personnel

Over the weekend, the Israeli army carried out strikes on targets within Lebanon and Syria, as announced by the military. This action comes amid heightened tensions in the Northern region following the killing of an Israeli soldier by Hezbollah on Wednesday, which also left several others wounded. Additionally, a visit by the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force to Baghdad, occurring less than 48 hours after the deaths of three US soldiers in Jordan in January, has resulted in a cessation of attacks on American troops in Iraq.

Interior ministers from 4 Arab countries agree in Jordan that illegal drug trade needs to be tackled

The interior ministers of four Arab countries held talks in Jordan on Saturday to discuss ways of combatting the illegal drug trade in the region and agreed to set up a joint telecommunications cell to exchange information, AP reported.

The meeting between the interior ministers of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, saw the four officials acknowledge “that there is a big problem and it is drugs and all our societies are suffering from this problem,” Jordan’s Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya told reporters after the meeting.

The drug trade has been a source of tension between Jordan and Syria, with the Jordanian air force reportedly carrying out strikes in Syria’s south targeting alleged smugglers and drug manufacturing plants. Smugglers have used Jordan as a corridor in recent years to smuggle highly addictive Captagon amphetamine pills out of Syria, mainly to oil-rich Arab Gulf states.

The vast majority of the world’s Captagon is produced in Syria, with smaller production in neighbouring Lebanon. Western governments estimate that Captagon has generated billions of dollars in revenue for President Bashar Assad, his Syrian associates and allies. Damascus has denied the accusations.

Five drug dealers killed

Hours after the meeting, five drug dealers were killed on Sunday during a foiled attempt to smuggle large quantities of drugs into Jordan from Syria, an army statement said.

Four other smugglers were injured in the dawn attempt to cross the northern border with Syria and large quantities of drugs were seized, the statement said.

Since the start of the year, there has been an escalation in clashes with drug dealers that Jordan says have direct links to pro-Iranian militias and are carrying narcotics, arms and explosives over the border from Syria.

Iran Commander Requests Armed Groups Pause Attacks on US Targets

A visit by the commander of Iran‘s elite Quds Force to Baghdad, less than 48 hours after three US soldiers were killed in Jordan in January, has led to a halt in attacks on American troops in Iraq, Iranian and Iraqi sources told Reuters.

The sources said the visit marked Tehran’s desire to prevent a broader conflict in the region after Iran-aligned groups ramped up attacks on US targets in Iraq and Syria over Israel‘s war on Gaza.

Esmail Kaani met representatives of several armed groups in Baghdad airport on 29 January, two days after Washington blamed groups for the attack that killed its soldiers, the sources said.

The strike on Tower 22 in a remote sliver of northeast Jordan sent a shockwave through Washington, as it marked the first public deaths of US soldiers since attacks on US troops began, following the outbreak of the war on Gaza in October.

Qaani told the Iraqi factions that killing Americans risked a heavy US response, Reuters cited 10 of the sources, which include politicians, security officials, diplomats and members of armed groups, as saying. 

The Iranian commander said the militias should lie low, to avoid US strikes on their senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure or even a direct retaliation against Iran, the sources said.

Israel bombs weapons depot in Syria, shells Hezbollah in southern Lebanon

The Israeli army struck targets inside Lebanon and Syria over the weekend, the army announced, as part of an escalation in the North after Hezbollah killed an Israeli soldier on Wednesday and wounded several others, JPost reporter.

In Lebanon, the Israeli army attacked infrastructure belonging to Hezbollah in the Jabal Balat area near the border.

They also struck military buildings in the Bin Jbeil area.

On Saturday morning, the IDF bombed a Syrian Army weapons depot in the area of the town Mhajjah near the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah signalling escalation

The strikes were a response to rocket launches from Syrian territory toward the southern Golan, although they did not enter Israeli territory.

Hezbollah signalled on Friday it would escalate attacks on Israel as its secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said Israel would pay a price “in blood.”

Nasrallah said “The response to the [Israeli] massacre should be continuing resistance work and escalating resistance work at the front. For our women and our children killed these days, the enemy will pay the price of spilling their blood in blood.”.

Nasrallah said the killings had increased Hezbollah’s determination to increase its “presence, strength, fire, anger” and expand its operations, he said. Israel “must expect that and wait for that.”

What’s missing from the debate over US troops in Syria

Responsible States Craft Website published a critique of U.S. military involvement in Syria, highlighting the significant humanitarian and geopolitical consequences of American actions in the region. 

A report from Foreign Policy last month ignited discussions on U.S. Middle East policy, revealing the Biden administration’s consideration for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. This prospect has sparked debate among legacy media on the future of American involvement in the region. However, the broader conversation often overlooks the significant suffering U.S. involvement has caused in Syria.

Kenneth McKenzie, a retired general writing for the New York Times, argues against the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. He believes that even discussing withdrawal could harm U.S. interests and embolden Tehran, potentially allowing Iran to expand its influence in the Middle East. McKenzie also contends that U.S. forces are essential for securing prisons holding ISIS fighters, suggesting that their departure could lead to militants escaping and the resurgence of ISIS. He doubts the Syrian government’s capability, even with Russian and Iranian support, to prevent such outcomes.

McKenzie’s stance, however, is challenged by the argument that American intervention in the Middle East created conditions conducive to the rise of ISIS. Critics, including figures like Noam Chomsky and Rand Paul, have pointed out that U.S. actions—such as military invasions, the toppling of governments, and sanctions—have contributed to power vacuums and instability that allowed groups like ISIS to gain traction.

The discussion also touches on the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, exacerbated by nearly 13 years of civil war and foreign interventions. Syria, once a middle-income country, now faces profound poverty, with over 90% of its population living below the international poverty line. American sanctions, particularly the Caesar Act, have further strained Syria’s ability to rebuild and recover, by targeting anyone engaged in significant transactions with the Syrian government.

The debate around U.S. policy in Syria includes criticisms of the broader impacts of American militarism in the region. It highlights the severe human costs—food insecurity, lack of electricity, and a decimated economy—stemming from prolonged conflict and foreign interference. McKenzie’s focus on military objectives and the projection of American power overlooks these significant humanitarian concerns, underscoring a disconnect between strategic interests and the well-being of the Syrian people.

This summary reflects the complexities and controversies surrounding U.S. involvement in Syria, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of both the geopolitical implications and the human costs of foreign intervention.

Leave Syria, Keep Fighting ISIS

The commentary from War on the Rocks, authored by Thanassis Cambanis and titled “Leave Syria, Keep Fighting the Islamic State,” argues for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The piece highlights the challenges faced by US forces due to daily attacks from the Axis of Resistance in Syria and Iraq, referencing a recent attack that resulted in the deaths of three US service members. Cambanis suggests that the US has missed its window for a well-organized withdrawal, which is now imminent, possibly within months or a year, depending largely on the outcomes of the upcoming US presidential election. The commentary emphasizes the need for the US to focus on its original objective in Syria: combating the Islamic State (ISIS).

Despite claims by some that ISIS remains as strong as ever and warnings of the potential threat posed by detained terrorists, the article urges the US and its allies to prioritize the fight against ISIS. It advocates for the US to disengage from other conflicts that divert attention and resources away from this goal. The suggestion includes working with the Syrian government to ensure control over detention centers holding ISIS members and planning for a reduced US presence in Iraq and northeast Syria.

Furthermore, the commentary calls for the US to accept a reduced military footprint in Iraq in exchange for continued intelligence and counter-terrorism collaboration with both the federal Iraqi security forces and the Kurdistan Regional Government. This approach acknowledges Iraq’s sovereignty and the complexity of its government, which includes factions the US may find problematic.

The piece concludes by arguing that the US can maintain its core mission of combating ISIS while reducing its military presence in the Middle East, provided it is willing to adjust its strategy and accept a diminished role in the region’s security dynamics. This strategy, Cambanis suggests, could lead to a more focused fight against ISIS without the distractions of broader regional conflicts.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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