Logo Wide

Syria Today – Kurdish Forces Advance in Deir-ez-Zor; Government Silence About Protests Raises Questions

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Kurdish Forces Advance in Deir-ez-Zor; Government Silence About Protests Raises Questions

On Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with support from the United States, advanced further into the final bastion held by Arab tribal militias that have been resisting them in eastern Syria. Concurrently, amidst the ongoing protests within the Suweida Governorate, which represent a significant recent development in the country, the Syrian government’s lack of response has been the prevailing factor shaping the situation.

Syria’s Kurdish-led SDF hopes to end clashes with Arab militia in the ‘next 24 hours’

The US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday pushed deeper into the last stronghold of Arab tribal militias who have taken up arms against them in eastern Syria, New Arab reported.

A spokesperson said they hoped to end clashes which have been ongoing since last week in the “next 24 hours.”

The fighting, which broke out eight days ago in the oil-rich province of Deir Al-Zour along the Euphrates River, has so far killed at least 50 people, including several civilians, and wounded dozens. Hundreds of US troops have been based in eastern Syria since 2015 to fight against the Islamic State group.

The violence has pitted the SDF against the tribesmen and former allies of the Arab-led militia known as the Deir Al-Zour Military Council.

It was sparked by the arrest last month of the militia’s leader, Ahmad Khbeil, better known as Abu Khawla, accused by SDF of “multiple crimes and violations,” including drug trafficking.

SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami told The Associated Press that the Kurdish-led forces have cleared three towns in the province previously seized by the militia. “What’s left is (the town of) Ziban,” he said. “We are hoping to end tensions there in the next 24 hours.”

Shami said some 100 armed men are estimated to be in Ziban, along with suspected cells of the Islamic State group. Now rivals, the SDF and the militia were allies in the war against IS.

A Britain-based opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the leader of a pro-Iran Arab tribe fighting against the SDF had called on his tribesmen and others to “free Deir Al-Zour from the despicable Kurds”.

The Damascus-based Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has criticized the Kurdish-led SDF for its close alliance with the United States in the war against Islamic State militants and for forming what authorities describe as an autonomous enclave in eastern Syria.

US, Iran, Turkey and Russia 

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post argues that the recent developments in Syria have intensified concerns over the role of various actors and their ambitions within the region. Iran’s foreign minister’s visit to Syria coincided with a series of clashes between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and local tribes near the Euphrates River valley. In the aftermath of these clashes, a debate has emerged regarding the driving forces behind the conflict, raising questions about whether it was rooted in local grievances or influenced by external factors. What initially appeared as a localized dispute has rapidly escalated, prompting Turkish-backed rebel groups to mobilize against the SDF. 

Pro-Iran media outlets have been closely following the situation, shining a spotlight on central and eastern Syria. Against this backdrop, the implications of these events have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the immediate conflict. The battle lines are drawn, and as the region holds its breath, the outcomes of this complex situation remain uncertain. 

What may have begun as local grievances, according to The Jerusalem Post, now has much larger implications. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and proxy groups have mobilized to fight the SDF. The tribes continue to fight. There is intensive coverage by pro-Iran media such as Al-Mayadeen, and it is clear that all eyes are on central and eastern Syria. What might happen next?

Rudaw media in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, noted that “days of deadly clashes in Syria’s eastern Deir-ez-Zor province between Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and local Arab fighters are culminating in a looming battle as the SDF attempt to retake the last town held by tribesmen, a war monitor said on Monday.” Rudaw has good sources in Syria, however, they also rely on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based war monitor. Now SOHR says a town called Dhiban is being shelled: “The violence in Kurdish-controlled Deir-ez-Zor since clashes erupted on August 27 has killed at least 71 people so far, including 39 local fighters, 23 SDF members, and nine civilians, while nearly a hundred have been injured, according to SOHR.”

A report at Al-Mayadeen said sheikhs of the Al-Akidat tribe had repelled an SDF attack. The report also indicates that some tribal leaders have been in contact with the US. The US has tried to broker some kind of calm, utilizing its forces and diplomats, according to reports. The US has often neglected eastern Syria, using a small number of personnel to back the SDF against ISIS. The US also uses Syria for other reasons. US aircraft and drones are active.

These sometimes may strike at ISIS and other extremists but they can also play other roles, such as checking Russian and Iranian aggression.

It is unclear if the SDF will be able to fully re-assert control. Iranian and regime agents, as well as Turkey, may be seeking to prolong the fighting. It is in their interests to reduce US influence and cause casualties among the SDF, and to get locals to request the regime or other forces enter the vacuum. Therefore, what happens in eastern Syria could lead to a huge vacuum of power along the Euphrates River. In the past, this was used as a conduit for extremists to pour into Iraq. Today Iran uses this area also to move weapons on the western side of the river from Albukamal to the T-4 base and onward to Lebanon. 

Government shows indifference towards protests in Syria’s Suweida

Despite the ongoing protests in the Suweida Governorate, considered the most prominent event in recent years in the country, the Syrian government’s silence towards these protests dominated the situation.

According to North Press, the government was not only silent but rather issued a new decision to raise the prices of oil derivatives, even though lifting the support on oil products and subsequent spike in prices directly caused protests never seen before in Suweida and unprecedented opposition in the Syrian coastal areas.

Indifference

The state of indifference with which the government dealt with the protests in southern Syria holds a kind of concern and apprehension according to some observers.

A Syrian journalist told North Press that, the government’s decisions seem irreversible because cancelling these decisions would mean conceding and this is what the government does not want to appear it is forced to do.

He added, “The government went beyond indifference,” by issuing two decisions to raise the price of gasoline (octane 95) a few days ago. Although it clarified that the increase includes oil products that private companies sell to the private sector, it is known that any increase in fuel prices for the private sector will directly lead to a similar increase in the goods produced by that sector due to the high cost.

The government issued two decisions to raise the price of a litre of gasoline (octane 95), from 13,500 Syrian pounds (SYP) to 14,700 SYP, in addition to increasing diesel prices from 11,500 SYP to 12,800 SYP.

The measure was met with disapproval. It seemed as if the government was detached from reality and what was happening on the ground. This made the government to reduce the income tax rate and raise the minimum rate exempted from taxes from 50,000 SYP to 185,940 SYP (equivalent to about $12.5, based on the exchange rate of one US dollar in the market on the day of issuing the decision).

The decision was supposed to be issued simultaneously with the decree on increasing salaries by 100 percent. It soon became clear that this increase would be subjected to high tax rates unless the law was amended.

The decision to increase salaries coincided with the decision to stop subsiding fuel. Additionally, the decision to raise the minimum limit of income exempted from taxes coincided with a new decision to raise gasoline and diesel prices in the private sector. In both cases, the government would receive more money than it would pay, as the decree to raise prices is put in effect immediately, whereas salary increases will be effective this month.

Jordan shoots down a drug-laden drone from Syria in the ninth incident this year

Jordan’s armed forces have brought down a drone laden with drugs from Syria for the ninth time this year, according to a military statement, Al-Jazeera reported.

A drone carrying crystal meth was intercepted after flying across the border from Syria, the statement released on Monday said.

“The border guard forces, in coordination with the narcotics control department and the military security services, monitored an attempt by an unmanned drone to illegally cross the border from Syrian territory to Jordanian territory, and it was shot down inside Jordanian territory,” the statement said.

Last month, the Jordanian army shot down three drones carrying narcotics from Syria that had crossed over the porous, 375km (233-mile) border the countries share.

The uprising in Suweida will continue until the regime changes in Syria

Syria writer Rima Flihan wrote an article for The Atlantic, in which she analyzes the ongoing uprising in Suweida, Syria, and its motivations, goals, and implications. 

The author focuses on the protests’ aims of regime change and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. 

The article discusses the ongoing uprising in Suweida, a governorate in Syria, and analyzes the motivations, goals, and implications of this protest movement. The author, Rima Flihan, highlights key factors driving the protests and offers insight into the broader context of the Syrian conflict. Here’s an analysis of the main points:

Uprising and Goals:

The protests in Suweida aim to achieve a change in the Syrian regime and the full implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2254. This resolution outlines a roadmap for peace in Syria, including the formation of a transitional governing body with full powers. The protesters also demand political, civil, and human rights, along with economic relief in the face of a deteriorating economic situation.

Economic and Political Context:

The Syrian regime’s economic policies have failed to address citizens’ needs, leading to economic hardship. The regime’s alliance with Russia and Iran has allowed these countries to access Syria’s resources, while the Syrian people continue to struggle. The regime’s corruption and mismanagement have exacerbated the economic crisis, displacing millions and causing suffering.

Repression and War Crimes:

The Assad regime’s history of repression, war crimes, and human rights abuses is acknowledged. The regime’s actions include displacement, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Despite these atrocities, Syrians in Suweida are demanding regime change as the only solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

International Inaction:

The international community is criticized for failing to address the Assad regime’s crimes effectively and enforce UN resolutions. The author highlights the use of chemical weapons, torture, and civilian targeting as examples. The focus on the constitution as a solution pathway is deemed ineffective, and the lack of decisive action allows war criminals to persist.

Regional and Global Impact:

The author asserts that as long as the Assad regime remains in power, it will continue its alliance with Tehran and pose a threat to regional stability. Changing the regime through a transitional process, as demanded by protesters, is presented as a way to rebuild the economy and bring stability not only to Syria but to the wider region.

Ethical Implications:

The ongoing protests in Suweida and other parts of Syria represent a last glimmer of hope for a population that has been oppressed and abandoned for years. The author emphasizes that the world has a moral obligation to listen to the voices of the Syrian people and support a comprehensive and sustainable political solution.

Call for Action:

The author’s call to action is directed at both the international community and Arab governments. The former is urged to take a more proactive stance against the Assad regime’s crimes and support genuine change, while the latter is advised to reconsider normalization with the regime and instead focus on political transition.

Historical Perspective:

The author suggests that history has shown that ignoring war criminals and their actions leads to the perpetuation and escalation of crimes. The situation in Syria serves as a cautionary example, with Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine being cited as a result of unaddressed actions in Syria.

Rima Flihan’s analysis of the Suweida uprising underscores the population’s determination to demand change, highlights the regime’s failures and atrocities, and emphasizes the importance of international and regional engagement to achieve lasting peace and justice in Syria. The article presents a clear perspective on the ongoing conflict and its broader implications.

Helpful keywords