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Syria Today: Muslim Brotherhood New Leader; Attack on U.S. Base; SDF Bombs Turkey Base

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today: Muslim Brotherhood New Leader; Attack on U.S. Base; SDF Bombs Turkey Base

Muslim Brotherhood Appoints New Leader In Syria

On Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria appointed Amer al-Busalama as its leader in Syria to succeed Muhammad Hikmat Walid, who had held the position since 2014.

The Muslim Brotherhood posted on its Website that the group’s Shura Council appointed Amer al-Busalama as the group’s leader in Syria. He was born in Deir-ez-Zor in 1960, holds a PhD. in Sharia from the University of Baghdad, and has lived for more than a decade in Turkey.

Busalama is a moderate MB and comes as a compromise between several wings within the Group.

Canada To Repatriate ‘Jihadi John’, 22 Other Citizens

Canada is set to repatriate 23 of its citizens currently detained in camps for ISIL (ISIS) family members in northeastern Syria, according to officials and lawyers representing the citizens.

The repatriation, according to France 24, which represents the largest group of ISIL family members repatriated to Canada at once, was determined in two actions on Friday.

The foreign ministry said it had decided to repatriate six Canadian women and 13 infants who had been living in the locked camps.

Later, a federal court ruled that four men seeking repatriation as part of that group must also be sent back to Canada.

Lawyers representing the citizens have argued that Ottawa is obligated to repatriate the group under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Suicide Drones Attack U.S. Base in Syria

According to CENTCOM, the two fighters injured were members of a U.S. partner force, the Syrian Free Army.

Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said, “attacks of this kind are unacceptable.”

“They place our troops and our partners at risk and jeopardize the fight against ISIS,” Buccino said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Syrian official news agency SANA reported that Residents of a village in the countryside of Qamishli intercepted military armoured vehicles belonging to the American occupation forces and expelled them as they tried to pass near the village.

The convoy consisting of four US armoured vehicles, accompanied by a car belonging to SDF militia, tried to cross the international highway and pass near the village, Local sources told a SANA reporter.

SDF bombs Turkish military base near Syria border

The Kurdish-led SDF bombed a Turkish military base near the border with Syria on Friday evening. Several rockets fell at the base in Turkey’s Kilis province near the Bab Al-Salama border crossing, said a correspondent for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

The rockets came from SDF-controlled areas in Aleppo province in northern Syria.

Turkish forces deployed in Aleppo province responded by bombing sites controlled by the SDF and the Syrian regime, including in the vicinity of Tel Rifaat city, the correspondent reported.

Turkey has been threatening to launch a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in Tel Rifaat and other areas in Syria’s north for months.

U.S. forces capture global ISIS recruiter in Syria helicopter assault

Fox News reports that U.S. and coalition forces carried out a helicopter assault on an ISIS stronghold in Syria on Thursday, capturing one extremist involved in global recruiting for the terrorist organization.

“The capture of this ISIS operative will disrupt the terrorist organization’s threatening U.S. citizens, our partners and innocent civilians,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesperson.

“ISIS continues to represent a threat to the U.S. and partners in the region. CENTCOM maintains a sufficient and sustainable presence in the region and will continue to counter threats against regional security,” he added.

Syria, Turkey Normalization Takes Shape along Aleppo-Lattakia Highway

Syria and Turkey have held security meetings in the Lattakia countryside with the aim of reopening the Aleppo-Lattakia highway. A Kurdish delegation from Qamishli even visited the Syrian capital to feel out the limits of the Syrian-Turkish cooperation against them.

Asharq al-Awsat’s Ibrahim Hamidi reports that Syrian-Turkish security meetings have been held recently in Lattakia’s Kasab area to reopen the highway. Turkey has shown some flexibility in reopening it on condition that it maintains its control over it, while Syria maintains its sovereignty.

As Syria and Turkey inch closer to normalizing their relations, Damascus again turned to the Kurds. Each side wants to feel out the respective party’s stance on the normalization. Indeed, a Kurdish delegation visited Damascus just days ago.

Russia had previously sponsored negotiations, and delegations were formed, but the talks then came to a halt. Damascus now wants to feel out where the Kurds, who are allied to the US, stand, while the Kurds want to know the limits of the normalization between Damascus and Ankara.

The meetings were aimed at studying the implementation of the understanding that was signed between the two parties in wake of the sudden American troop withdrawal approved by former US President Donald Trump in late 2019. The agreement included the deployment of Syrian forces east of the Euphrates.

The Kurds are now eager to cooperate with Damascus if it means preventing a new Turkish offensive against them, while Damascus is more than ready to deal with them in their position of weakness.

American mediation

It is no secret that relations between Deputy Assistant to the U.S. President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk and Ankara are very bad. But a Gulf state recently hosted a secret meeting between the US official and Turkey’s Fidan with the aim of clearing the air.

What can be done to avert a new Turkish incursion east of the Euphrates? What can be done to meet some Turkish demands? What can be done to avert a catastrophe in the counter-terrorism efforts being carried out by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition partnered with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)?

In the wake of the secret meeting, U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Syria Nicholas Granger carried out a series of secret visits to Ankara and Qamishli. Talks focused on the withdrawal of the Kurdish police, Asayish, 30 kilometres deep into Syrian territory away from the Turkish border or that they lay down their arms. They also tackled the re-formation of local councils and the return of Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, Turkish FM Cavusoglu was keen on meeting United Nations envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen ahead of his trip to Washington to imply that he was interested in reaching a political solution in Syria.

At any rate, a breakthrough, if reached, has yet to be declared.

Turkey has repeatedly said it had reached the limit of its patience and that it would take unilateral measures. The US has warned against any measure that would impact the SDF and the war on terror.

Iranian annoyance

Amid all these developments, Iran has expressed its annoyance with the Russian mediation between Damascus and Ankara for a number of reasons.

First, the mediation took place behind its back. In fact, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian complained of this in Damascus just days ago, revealing that he had learned of the Syrian-Turkish meetings through the media.

Second, Tehran believes that any progress in Syrian-Turkish ties may take place at the expense of Iran’s military and non-military role in Syria.

Third, the United Arab Emirates has joined efforts in Syria and offered to host or take part in the Syrian-Turkish-Russian meetings, including the upcoming trilateral summit.

Add to the above obstacles that led to the postponement of a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Damascus that was planned for late 2022.

Meanwhile, Damascus, which wants to stand on equal footing with its allies Moscow and Tehran, has expressed its disappointment with the continued Iranian arms shipments to Damascus International Airport, which has been the target of a number of Israeli strikes.

It is also upset with the delay in the arrival of three Iranian oil shipments and with draft agreements that include “sovereign concessions” related to the economy and granting Iranians in Syria the same privileges as the Syrians themselves.

These issues were discussed during Abdollahian’s visit to Damascus, and some breakthroughs were reached. Tehran pledged to send oil shipments, and Damascus pledged to coordinate its normalization with Ankara with Iran. Preparations to arrange for Raisi’s visit to Damascus have resumed. Amid all this, pro-Iran factions shelled the positions of “America’s allies” in the region east of the Euphrates.

The outcomes of the above-mentioned secret and open meetings will emerge on the Aleppo-Lattakia highway, the battlefields in northern and eastern Syria and air raids. Meanwhile, the Syrian people, huddled in their homes and camps, are hoping for an improvement in their living and economic conditions.

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