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Syria Today – KSrelief Program for Syrian Refugees; Syria Stands with UAE on Dispute with Iran

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – KSrelief Program for Syrian Refugees; Syria Stands with UAE on Dispute with Iran

Saudi aid agency KSrelief has concluded its 26th volunteer program in Al-Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The program provided health services in various fields including optometry, dermatology and physical therapy, benefiting some 669 people. There were also a number of courses in subjects such as English, chemistry, sewing and more.

An awareness course on addiction, treating suicide cases and individual and group counseling benefited 297 people.

Meanwhile, KSrelief has assessed the possibility of a humanitarian aid project in Azerbaijan.

In collaboration with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Health, the aid agency evaluated the readiness of hospitals and health centers and the necessary medical specialties for volunteer medical projects.

Why is Syria on UAE’s side over Iran in Gulf Islands dispute?

Robert Lansing Institute published a report on Syria’s support for the UAE in the Gulf islands dispute.

The report finds that Syria’s support for the UAE’s sovereignty over three Gulf islands claimed by Iran—Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb, and Greater Tunb—at the Arab League summit in Bahrain is significant for several reasons:

  1. Strategic Realignment: Syria seeks to strengthen ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League, prioritizing these relationships over its historical ties with Iran.
  2. Pan-Arab Ideology: As a Baathist, Arab nationalist state, Syria supports Arab claims over Iranian ones, reinforcing its pan-Arab identity and legacy.
  3. Normalization with the Arab World: Following its readmission to the Arab League in 2023, Syria is keen to align with popular Arab positions to maintain constructive relations and further integrate into the Arab community.
  4. Reduced Reliance on Iran: Assad no longer relies as heavily on Iran for survival as he did during the peak of Syria’s civil war, making it easier for Damascus to take positions that may not align with Tehran’s interests.
  5. Practical Implications: Despite Iran’s irritation, the support for the UAE’s claims is seen as largely symbolic and unlikely to cause a significant rift in Iran-Syria relations. It reflects Syria’s ongoing normalization process with the Arab world rather than a shift away from Iran.
  6. Continued Support for Russia: Syria’s recognition of Russia’s territorial claims, despite international unpopularity, demonstrates its strategic alliances while highlighting the complexity of recognizing Iran’s claims in the Gulf.

The reports conclude that Syria’s support for the UAE in the Gulf islands dispute underscores its efforts to strengthen Arab ties, maintain pan-Arab identity, and navigate the delicate balance of its relationships with both the Arab world and Iran.

Gulf states call on al-Assad to implement resolutions of Amman and Cairo meetings

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has urged the Syrian regime to implement the resolutions issued at last year’s Amman and Cairo meetings, affirming its support for reaching a political solution in Syria, according to Enab Baladi.

This came in the final statement of the GCC’s sixtieth session at the ministerial level, held on Sunday, June 9, in the Qatari capital, Doha, chaired by Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, with the presence of the foreign ministers of the Gulf countries except for the UAE.

The GCC emphasized its support for the United Nations’ efforts to reach a political solution in Syria consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and other relevant UN resolutions.

The council also supported the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, and the efforts made to care for Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons, working towards their voluntary and safe return to their country, and rejecting any attempts to bring about demographic changes in Syria.

The ministerial council reaffirmed its support for the efforts of the Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee regarding the Syrian crisis, calling on the Syrian regime to implement the commitments made at the consultative meeting in Amman on May 1, 2023, and the meeting on Syria held in Cairo on August 15, 2023. The council also expressed its hope for the resumption of the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.

The GCC praised Saudi Arabia’s decision to appoint its ambassador to Syria and underscored the importance of maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity, respecting its independence and sovereignty over its own land, and rejecting regional interventions in its internal affairs, denouncing the repeated Israeli attacks on Syria.

Damascus exhibiting capabilities of Iranian universities

An exhibition showcasing the scientific capabilities of Iranian universities is being held in Damascus, Syria, Tehran Times reports.

A total of 13 Iranian universities are attending the four-day event, which kicked off today at the Faculty of Law at the University of Damascus, IRNA reported.

The national union of Syrian students, in cooperation with Iran’s vice-presidency for science and technology, has organized the exhibition within the framework of scientific cooperation between Syria and Iran to feature the scientific capabilities of Iranian universities.

Bassam Bashir Ibrahim, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Syria, visiting the exhibition underscored the importance of utilizing the experiences and expertise of the universities present in the exhibition.

The Syrian official said, “Holding such exhibitions can provide Syrian students an opportunity to explore the services provided by these universities, including the educational systems, curriculums, tuition fees, and registration processes.”

Iran’s ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbari, for his part said, “Universities play an essential role in the development of technology which consequently has a significant impact on the fate of any country.”

This exhibition displays only a small part of the scientific capabilities of Iranian universities, the official highlighted.

“Iran and Syria need to further expand sci-tech ties to be able to neutralize oppressive sanctions imposed by enemies,” Akbari added.

Eyeing showdown with Hezbollah, Israel presses shadow campaign in Syria

 Israel has intensified covert strikes in Syria against weapons sites, supply routes and Iranian-linked commanders, seven regional officials and diplomats said, ahead of a threatened full-scale assault on Tehran’s key ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

According to Reuters, a June 2 air raid that killed 18 people, including an adviser with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, targeted a clandestine, fortified weapons site near Aleppo, three of the sources said. In May, an air strike hit a convoy of trucks headed to Lebanon carrying missile parts and another raid killed Hezbollah 

Israel has for years struck militant groups backed by arch-foe Iran in Syria and elsewhere, in a low-level campaign that burst into open confrontation after Israel and Palestinian group Hamas – another Iranian ally – went to war in Gaza on Oct. 7.

Israel has since killed dozens of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Hezbollah officers in Syria, from just two last year before the Oct. 7 attack, according to a tally by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

The battle hit a fever pitch in April when Israel bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing the top IRGC commander for operations in the Levant. In retaliation, Iran fired some 300 missiles and drones at Israel, almost all of which were shot down. Israel then attacked Iranian territory with drones.

This direct confrontation, a first for the two countries, stopped there. Israel also briefly reduced the number of strikes it was carrying out against Iranian proxies, said Selin Uysal, a French diplomat seconded to the Washington Institute, citing the tally, which counted publicly known attacks in the weeks immediately before and after.

“There was a slowdown” after the face-off in April, she said.

“But they are picking up again because of suspected Iranian weapons transfers to Lebanon. There is a kinetic effort in Syria and Lebanon to disrupt the supply chain between Iran and Hezbollah.”

Reuters interviewed three Syrian officials, an Israeli government official and three Western diplomats about Israel’s Syria campaign. The officials asked not to be named to talk freely about sensitive matters.

Holding ISIL Accountable: Prosecuting Crimes in Iraq and Syria

The International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) has published a long report which focuses on the idea that while prosecutions of ISIL fighters have predominantly focused on terrorism-related offences, they have not adequately addressed core international crimes like genocide and war crimes. 

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s self-declared “caliphate,” the international community has grappled with the question of how to achieve accountability for crimes committed by the armed group. 

While prosecutions of captured ISIL fighters and other ISIL-affiliated individuals are occurring, they have to date overwhelmingly focused on terrorism-related offences without addressing core international crimes–including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes–that may have been perpetrated by these individuals. Many prosecutions fall short of true accountability for the full dimensions of ISIL crimes and the totality of harm done to victims and survivors.  

To support prosecutions that more fully reflect the atrocities committed by ISIL, additional work is needed to collect and analyse evidence relating to ISIL’s ideology, structure, decision-making, and capacities that underpinned the commission of atrocities. This book brings together eight experts who conducted original research on the inner workings of ISIL. 

The authors are recognized inter-disciplinary experts on ISIL —some of whom have served as expert witnesses in U.N.-led investigations and domestic criminal proceedings. These papers are intended to serve as a summary of their research and a starting point for prosecutors and other authorities conducting investigations and building cases around crimes committed by ISIL.

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