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Syria Today – Mekdad-Bin Farhan Phone Call; Barzani Welcomes Opposition Figure

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

On Monday, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, had a phone conversation with Dr. Faisal Mekdad, Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates. They delved into the pressing need to prevent any further escalation in the ongoing Gaza conflict. Meanwhile, Ahmad Jarba, the leader of Syria’s Tomorrow Movement, met with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on the same day.

Saudi, Syrian FMs discuss importance of preventing escalation in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call on Monday from Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Dr. Faisal Mekdad, during which the two sides discussed the importance of stopping further escalation in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The Saudi and Syrian foreign ministers also discussed the latest developments in the ongoing military escalation on Gaza and its surroundings, in addition to the importance of finding ways to defuse the tension.

It is important to find a just and fair solution that meets the needs of the Palestinians, and alleviate the repercussions of this crisis in a way that contributes to the protection of civilians, Prince Faisal and Dr. Mekdad said.

The two sides also reviewed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria, and ways to enhance them in a way that serves the two countries’ aspirations, in addition to discussing other topics of common interest.

PM Barzani, Syrian opposition leader addresses latest developments in Syria

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Monday received Ahmad Jarba, the leader of Syria’s Tomorrow Movement.

During the meeting, the latest developments in Syria and the region were discussed.

Both sides emphasized the need to resolve Syrian issues through dialogue and peaceful means, to protect the rights of Syrian Kurds, as well as the importance of coexistence and peace between all peoples, particularly Kurds and Arabs.

Jarba was formerly the president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces from 2013-2014. 

In March 2016, Jarba founded Syria’s Tomorrow Movement in Cairo. It is a pro-democracy, secular opposition group in Syria. It is supported by several exiled Syrian opposition groups.  

Why did Israel bomb Syrian airports in the thick of its ongoing war with Hamas?

The ongoing war between the Hamas and Israel is deeply entrenched in regional rivalries and long-standing divides that shape the responses of various West Asian countries and actors. The recent airstrikes on Syria’s airports can be better understood within the context of the intricate relationships between Israel, Hezbollah, and Syria.

The persistent war in Gaza, pitting Israel against the militant group Hamas, continues to escalate, with Israeli warplanes striking parts of Gaza and even extending their operations on Sunday (Oct 22) to two airports in Syria.

This marked a significant development just two weeks after Hamas launched a major attack on Israel, one of the most significant since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

The ongoing turmoil is deeply entangled in regional rivalries and long-standing divides that shape the responses of various West Asian countries and actors. 

The recent airstrikes on Syria can be better understood within the context of the intricate relationships between Israel, Hezbollah, and Syria.

Israel’s concerns

The Israeli government has yet to provide explicit reasons for the recent attack on Syria. However, it is widely believed that these strikes are preemptive actions aimed at countering Hezbollah’s threats to open a new front of attacks in the north, reported Reuters.

Israel’s apprehensions are fuelled by the fact that Lebanon and Syria both share borders with Israel in the north. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant organization based in Lebanon, has been engaged in sporadic exchanges of fire with Israel in recent weeks, although it has not formally entered the war.

US troops in Syria targeted by drones: Officials

American and allied forces in Syria were targeted Monday in an attack that did not cause casualties, a US official said, after a militant group claimed to have launched drones at Washington’s troops, according to Al-Arabiya.

Armed factions close to Iran have threatened to attack US interests over Washington’s support for Israel since Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people in a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 5,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry.

“An attack against US and coalition forces occurred early this morning in Syria. There were no injuries or damage,” a US defense official said, referring to the international coalition against ISIS.

The US official did not provide specifics on the attack, but a group calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq said earlier in the day that it had launched drones against American forces at Al-Tanf and Al-Malikiyah in Syria.

The same group also claimed to have targeted US troops in Iraq on Saturday — an attack the United States said it could not confirm — while American forces shot down two drones in the country last week.

The United States has some 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq as part of efforts to combat ISIS, which once held significant territory in both countries but was pushed back by local forces supported by international air strikes.

Forgotten Front: Why Syria Is Becoming a Headache for Russia

The Moscow Times published a long report which discusses how Russia’s involvement in Syria has become a growing challenge and headache for the country, particularly in light of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and increasing alignment with Iran. 

Russia initially aimed to push the United States out of Syria and the Middle East in collaboration with Iran. However, the unintended consequence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and closer ties with Iran is that the U.S. presence in the region is growing, and Washington now has a clearer justification for its involvement in Syria.

The report highlights that the situation within Syria itself is escalating. Russia is facing challenges in integrating Wagner mercenary troops into its armed forces following the dismantling of the Wagner group and the death of its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. These challenges are making Syria a complicated issue for Moscow and detracting attention from the Ukrainian conflict.

Russia has increased its activities in the skies over Syria, targeting not only militants but also U.S. forces in the region. This aerial activity has led to incidents between Russian and U.S. warplanes. Russia’s naval capabilities have been reduced due to the closure of the Bosporus Strait to military vessels, further emphasizing the shift to aviation.

Russia and Iran have reportedly coordinated their actions to pressure the United States out of the Middle East. While Russian aviation challenges the U.S. in the air, Iranian proxies carry out missile strikes against American targets in Syria and Iraq, although these strikes are often intended to intimidate rather than cause significant damage.

The reports adds that contrary to the intended effect, the article points out that these efforts by Russia and Iran are increasing the U.S. military presence in the region. The U.S. has deployed additional forces and sought to unite pro-American groups in Syria.

Russia’s goal of maintaining a low-key presence in Syria has become increasingly unrealistic. The country faces instability, economic challenges, protests, and the resurgence of the Islamic State group. Additionally, the integration of Wagner mercenaries into Russian forces has proved difficult.

Wagner played a crucial role in Syria, including developing oil deposits and conducting civilian reconnaissance, tasks that the Russian military has struggled with. The article notes that the Russian military cannot easily replace Wagner due to its complexity.

While Russia’s position in Syria is not yet critical, the article suggests that certain challenges are becoming inevitable. Syria has not become the secure base for Russian troops that was initially envisioned, and it is generating its own localized crises.

The report underscores how Russia’s actions in Syria have unintended consequences, including increasing U.S. presence in the region and diverting attention from the conflict in Ukraine. It also highlights the challenges Russia faces in managing its involvement in Syria, particularly in light of the changing dynamics on the ground.

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