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Syria Today – Jordan Downs Drone from Syria; Opposition Leader Arrested

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Jordan Downs Drone from Syria; Opposition Leader Arrested

The Jordanian army said on Monday it had shot down a drone carrying drugs from Syria into its northern frontier region in the third such incident in recent weeks. At the same time, a prominent opposition leader was arrested by the SNA and the Turkish intelligence.

Syrian and Jordanian army and intelligence chiefs meet over drug war along border

Army and security chiefs from Jordan and Syria met on Sunday to curb a growing drug trade along their mutual border that has seen deadly skirmishes, blamed mainly on pro-Iranian militias who hold sway in southern Syria, Reuters reported.

The meeting comes after Syria’s neighbours got a pledge from Damascus during a meeting last May in Amman to cooperate with their efforts to rein in Syria’s flourishing drug trade in exchange for helping end its pariah status after a brutal crackdown of peaceful protesters during the civil war.

The talks headed by Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti and Syrian Defence Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas in the presence of both countries’ intelligence chiefs also tackled the threat drugs posed to regional stability, a Jordanian foreign ministry statement said.

“The meeting discussed cooperation in confronting the drug danger and its sources of production and smuggling and the parties that organize and execute smuggling operations across the border,” the statement said.

Syria is accused by Arab governments and the West of producing the highly-addictive and lucrative amphetamine captagon and organizing its smuggling into the Gulf, with Jordan a main transit route.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies involvement in drug-making and smuggling or complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces. Iran says the allegations are part of Western plots against the country.

Jordan, impatient with what it says are broken promises to curb the drug war, took matters into its own hands and in May made a rare strike inside Syrian territory where an Iran-linked drugs factory was demolished, local and Western intelligence sources said.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi earlier this month said in Damascus his country would not hesitate to act against any threat to its national security and urged Damascus to act more forcefully.

A drone carrying crystal meth downed

The Jordanian army said on Monday it had shot down a drone carrying drugs from Syria into its northern frontier region in the third such incident in recent weeks, Reuters reported.

The plane, which was carrying two kilos of crystal methamphetamine, was intercepted and downed on Jordan’s side of the border, it said.

It comes a day after the army and security chiefs from Jordan and Syria met to discuss ways to curb the growing smuggling problem. Despite pledges by Damascus, Jordan says it has not seen any real attempt to clamp down on the illicit trade.

Jordan has blamed pro-Iranian militias, who it says are protected by units within the Syrian army, for smuggling drugs across its borders toward Gulf markets.

Damascus says it is doing its best to curb smuggling and continues to bust smuggler rings in the south. It denies complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces. 

SNA leader arrested, member killed in Raqqa’s Tel Abyad

North Press reported that the Syrian National Army’s (SNA) Military Police, significant developments took place in downtown Tel Abyad, located in northern Raqqa, Syria. On the morning of July 24th, 2023, a targeted raid was carried out on the headquarters of a brigade belonging to the Levant Front faction, which is backed by Turkey.

During the operation, the SNA’s Military Police, with support from Turkish intelligence, successfully apprehended the leader of the brigade, identified as Hussein Abu Ali al-Ageidi. Simultaneously, the security guard responsible for guarding the leader, Shihab al-Nuaimi, lost his life in the encounter.

The raid was not confined to a single faction’s headquarters. Instead, it encompassed three different SNA factions’ locations. The ostensible reason behind this operation was the pursuit of drug dealers, as claimed by the authorities.

These developments reflect the ongoing tensions and complexities in the region, highlighting the challenges faced by various factions in maintaining control and order. The situation remains dynamic and may have broader implications for the security landscape in northern Syria.

Syria’s attempts to rejoin the international fold are far from convincing – here’s why

The Conversation has published a detailed analysis of why Syria’s attempts to rejoin the international fold are far from convincing.

The article written by Scott Lucas, a Professor at the Clinton Institute, University College Dublin, analyzes Syria’s attempts to rejoin the international community after years of conflict and political isolation. The author highlights several key reasons why these attempts are far from convincing.

  1. Fractured Syria: The author argues that Syria remains deeply fractured, making it challenging for any template agreements or declarations to address the complex issues the country is facing. The civil war and repression of the popular uprising have left Syria in disarray, with millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, along with economic hardships and shortages.
  2. Iran’s Limited Influence: While Iran has shown support for Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, the article suggests that its influence in the region is not sufficient to resolve the multitude of challenges Syria is facing. Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts and the standoff over its nuclear program also complicate the situation.
  3. Astana Process Challenges: Syria’s participation in the Astana process, aimed at finding a resolution to the conflict, encountered difficulties, with various stakeholders having conflicting interests. The regime’s demand for Turkey to withdraw its forces from opposition territory in northwest Syria highlights the complexities involved in finding a sustainable resolution.
  4. Rivalries and Tensions: Assad’s attempts to restore relations with Arab states clash with his reliance on Iran, as some Arab states are at odds with Tehran’s influence in the region. While there have been some diplomatic overtures between Iran and Saudi Arabia, underlying tensions remain.
  5. Economic Barriers: Western sanctions, particularly those imposed by the US, limit Syria’s potential economic gains and deter significant investments in the country’s devastated infrastructure and struggling economy.

In conclusion, the article suggests that despite some symbolic gestures and diplomatic engagements, Syria’s path to rejoining the international fold is hindered by its fractured state, Iran’s limited influence, regional rivalries, and economic challenges. The country faces a complex web of political and economic issues that cannot be easily resolved through superficial agreements or declarations.

Eight years later: Starting over as a Syrian teenager in Germany

This four-part series follows the story of Tammam Zaher Aldin, a Syrian teenager who embarked on a challenging journey to reunite with his mother in Germany. Tammam’s father had initially prevented him from leaving Syria to join his mother in Germany, but after his father contracted COVID-19 and passed away, Tammam seized the opportunity and obtained a visa to reunite with his family.

The New Humanitarian published an account of Tammam’s experience since his arrival in Germany, when Tammam faced a difficult period of adjustment. He missed his friends and life in Syria, struggled to concentrate on his studies, and initially found it hard to make new connections in Germany. He enrolled in mandatory classes for newly arrived foreign children to learn German, which he found challenging and demotivating due to the mixed language levels in the class. Tammam’s first German friend was an elderly neighbour who helped him adapt to German society.

Tammam’s turning point came when he remembered his passion for judo, a sport he had practiced for years in Syria. However, due to his busy study schedule and the distance of the nearest judo club, he had to postpone rejoining the sport. Tammam’s life took another turn when refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine arrived in Germany. Empathizing with their struggles, he volunteered to help them settle in and find a sense of community, which gave him a sense of purpose.

Despite the challenges, Tammam persevered in his studies and successfully passed the intermediate German exam. He started to feel more confident and comfortable in his new environment and began appreciating aspects of German culture, such as the value for following rules and regulations.

Looking forward, Tammam saw a path to building a stable life in Germany. While he understood that the journey to becoming a citizen would be long and require completing high school and college, he felt that normalcy and stability were achievable with time and effort.

Tammam’s story reflects the struggles and triumphs of many Syrian refugees who sought safety and stability in Germany. It showcases the difficulties of adjusting to a new life and culture while also highlighting the resilience and determination that can lead to successful integration and a hopeful future in a new country.

Turkey reaches out to Syria as Damascus courts Amman – analysis

An article published by JPost.com discusses Turkey’s desire to normalize ties with Syria while maintaining certain demands related to Kurdish far-left groups that it considers terrorists. Turkey has been backing Syrian rebels in their fight against Kurdish groups, particularly the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara labels as terrorists linked to the “PKK/YPG/PYD.” To address the issue of Syrian refugees in Turkey and work towards their return to Syria, Turkey seeks to improve relations with Damascus.

On the other hand, Syria is engaging with Jordan to combat drug smuggling, with a recent forum held in Amman to address the illegal captagon trade that occurs in Syria and fuels militias. The drug trade is a significant issue as it brings in substantial revenue, and Iran-backed militia allies in southern Syria are allegedly involved. Despite playing both sides by working with Jordan and enabling the drug trade, Syria is showing an interest in courting Jordan and addressing this issue seriously.

The article highlights how Syria is attempting to re-enter its traditional role as a bridge between Turkey and the Arab states of the Middle East. In the past, Syria played a key role in the region, positioning itself for regional leadership and working closely with Moscow and Europe. It also served as a corridor for Iran’s influence and played a role in empowering Hamas. With the changing dynamics in the region, Syria is seeking to position itself as a broker of deals rather than a site of civil war.

Overall, the article shows that Turkey and Syria are engaging in diplomatic efforts to improve ties and address shared concerns, such as the Kurdish issue and drug smuggling. However, the complexity of the region and conflicting interests may present challenges to achieving concrete results in the normalization of their relations. The situation remains fluid, and both countries will need to navigate carefully to achieve their respective goals in the region.

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