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Syria Today – Michel Aoun in Damascus; Italian Fascist Delegation in Syria

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Michel Aoun in Damascus; Italian Fascist Delegation in Syria

Former Lebanese president Michel Aoun headed to Syria to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, 14 years after his last visit. In the same time, it was revealed that a delegation from the Italian CasaPound Italia (CPI) Fascist movement was visiting Syria to carry out humanitarian missions.

Aoun heads to Syria to meet with Assad

Former Lebanese president and Free Patriotic Movement founder Michel Aoun headed to Syria on Tuesday to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, SANA reported.

Aoun is accompanied by ex-minister Pierre Raffoul and was welcomed at the Lebanese-Syrian border by Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali.

Assad, according to SANA, told Aoun that Lebanon’s strength lies in its political and economic stability and that the Lebanese people have the potentials to make this stability through dialogue and consensus, and the most significant is by adhering to the principles of not betting on changes.

He commended Aoun, saying, “General Aoun played a role in maintaining the fraternal relation between Syria and Lebanon for the interest of the two countries,” expressing his confidence on the Lebanese capability to overcome all the problems and challenges and devote the role of their national and constitutional institutions.

“Syria and Lebanon cannot consider their challenges in isolation from each other,” President al-Assad went on to say, noting that the Arab-Arab rapprochement that took place recently and was manifested in Arab League Jeddah Summit will positively affect Syria and Lebanon.

Gen. Aoun, in turn, stressed that the Lebanese people adhere to their national unity despite all circumstances.

According to al-Jadeed TV, Aoun’s visit is aimed at stressing “the continuation of the relation and the FPM’s strategic alignment.”

“Aoun will explain to Assad that his rejection of Franjieh’s election has nothing to do with this alignment and will point to the dangerousness of clinging to Franjieh at the expense of Christian unanimity,” al-Jadeed added.

Enemies become allies, Alawites’ take on the unlikely Saudi Syrian rapprochement

The Arab people, particularly the Syrian people, are characterized by a seemingly short memory in this era. However, it may not be a true shortcoming but rather a result of being consumed by daily conflicts, problems, and wars of various kinds—military, political, and sectarian. Among these battles, the struggle to make a living has become the most severe. With salaries reaching a maximum of around 15 US dollars, the people of Syria, including the Alawite community, are compelled to prioritize securing their basic needs, which has pushed them into precarious living conditions reminiscent of a more primitive existence.

Raseef 22 Website published an article on the change within the Alawite community regarding Saudi Arabia.

The article discusses the unlikely rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Syria and examines the reaction of the Alawite community in Syria towards this development. The author highlights the historical tensions between the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, and the Saudi regime, noting previous statements by Assad criticizing Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations and support of fundamentalist terrorism.

The article presents the perspective of various individuals from the Alawite community, who express a range of opinions and concerns regarding the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement. Some individuals express skepticism and recall Assad’s previous speeches criticizing the House of Saud, questioning the sudden change in approach. They express frustration and anger over the loss of their relatives in the war and the perceived betrayal by the Syrian government.

The author also mentions the economic hardships faced by Syrians, including the Alawites, due to the war and the dire financial situation. Some individuals emphasize the need for economic improvement and the possibility of increased salaries resulting from the Saudi-Syrian rapprochement.

The article sheds light on the perceptions and sentiments within the Alawite community, highlighting the complex dynamics and divisions that exist. It emphasizes the impact of the war on the collective memory and experiences of the Syrian people, particularly the Alawites, who have been caught in the midst of conflicts, sectarian tensions, and struggles for survival.

Overall, the article provides insights into the reactions of the Alawite community towards the unexpected Saudi-Syrian rapprochement, capturing a sense of disillusionment, frustration, and hope for economic improvement among individuals within the community.

Turkey’s Syria Policy: Unpacking Erdoğan’s Command of the State and Future Scenarios

A collection of essays published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute analyzes Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory in the Turkish presidential election in May 2023. The essays explore various aspects, including the Kurdish role in the election and the normalization of anti-refugee rhetoric during the campaign. They also delve into the future of Turkey’s Syria policy, Erdoğan’s command of the Turkish state, and the potential scenarios after Erdoğan’s eventual departure from power.

Erdoğan’s choice to deliver his victory speech at the presidential complex in Ankara, the Külliye, rather than the AKP party headquarters, was seen as a display of power. Despite economic, political, and social vulnerabilities, Erdoğan secured a victory with a margin of 4.3 percent. The atmosphere during the speech was marked by nationalist fervor, with crowds chanting for the execution of Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned co-chair of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Erdoğan promised to keep Demirtaş in jail and ensure the freedom of Turkey’s southern borders from terrorism, stating that the repatriation of refugees to Syria was part of his plan.

The issue of repatriation of Syrian refugees played a significant role in the Turkish elections. Anti-refugee and anti-migrant sentiments, driven by economic, cultural, and social factors, became key drivers of political competition. Even the AKP, which had previously pursued hospitable policies towards refugees, shifted its stance. Repatriation concerns were shared across the political spectrum.

Turkey’s Syria policy revolves around repatriation efforts and the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria. Ankara seeks a loyal Sunni constituency in this region and has been actively preventing Kurdish autonomy under the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkish military incursions have allowed the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) to control territories in northern Syria, and Turkey maintains a military presence in the opposition-held “de-escalation zone” of Idlib province. However, the sustainability of Turkey’s Syria policy is uncertain, as Ankara has been pushing for seemingly contradictory agendas, threatening military incursions while also trying to mend ties with Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara’s negotiations with Assad aim to preserve the fragile balance in Idlib, facilitate the return of Syrian refugees, and prevent Kurdish autonomy. Erdoğan’s victory speech indicated a continued focus on security threats at Turkey’s southern border, implying an ongoing fight against the PKK and a determination to halt Kurdish autonomy in Syria. At the same time, Erdoğan seeks to promote reconstruction efforts in Syria, particularly in the northwest, to prepare for the return of refugees. He hinted at seeking Qatari financing for reconstruction, which could find support from Western allies interested in stabilizing the region and preventing further refugee movements.

The views expressed in the essays are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the stance of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, which aims to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.

Delegation from Italy’s CasaPound Fascist Movement Visits Syria

On May 24, 2023, Syria TV aired a panel with a delegation from the Italian CasaPound Italia (CPI) Fascist movement that was visiting Syria, the Israeli MEMRI Website reported

Jamal Abu Abbas, the head of the Syrian community in Italy, said that early on during the Syrian civil war, members of CPI approached the Syrians in Italy, offered their support, and identified with the Syrian cause as their own cause. 

He said that the Fascists came “in droves” to rallies held by the Syrians and that this inspired him to bring them to visit Syria. 

Gianluca Iannone, the President of CPI, said that his organization has visited Syria almost a dozen times and has carried out eight humanitarian missions in Syria. He also emphasized CPI’s loyalty, friendship, and support for the Syrian regime, the Syrian people, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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