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Syria Today – SDF and Arab Tribes Continue Fighting; Airstrike in the South

Your daily-brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – SDF and Arab Tribes Continue Fighting; Airstrike in the South

Tensions between armed local groups and the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US, are jeopardizing the stability of eastern Syria. These clashes have erupted in villages located close to the Euphrates river. Concurrently, reports indicate that an airstrike targeted a purported drug facility in southern Syria near the Jordanian border on Thursday. Although the strike resulted in damage, there is no information available regarding casualties, as reported by activists from the Syrian opposition.

Clashes in Syria between tribes, US-backed SDF grow

Clashes between armed locals and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces threaten stability in eastern Syria. The clashes have occurred in villages near the Euphrates river. This area is near Deir-ez-zor, but it is controlled by the US-backed SDF since ISIS was defeated in 2019, Jerusalem Post reported.

ISIS used to control both sides of the river valley but now the eastern side is controlled by the SDF and the western side by the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed proxies.

This creates a complex situation, any instability can lead to a revival of ISIS or the insertion of Iranian elements or other elements.  

The complex story behind the clashes is the arrest of a member of the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC) by the SDF. The is itself backed by the SDF, but the composition of the local councils is rooted in Arab tribes in the area, whereas the SDF’s roots are in Kurdish fighters linked to the YPG. The US backed the formation of the SDF in 2015 in order to have an umbrella group that would mobilize anti-ISIS fighters. That meant recruiting beyond the Kurdish region of northeast Syria.

When the SDF liberated Raqqa and other areas it came to control many areas that are a majority Arab and made up of tribes. Some tribes were anti-ISIS and some have connections down the Middle Euphrates River Valley all the way to Iraq. This is an interesting and unique area, far from government control historically.

As such the people here are independent and have complex alliances and allegiances. The imposition of what they may see as outside control or arrests of members of powerful clans or tribes can lead to tensions.  

Damascus, Iran, Russia and Turkey all want to fan flames against the US and remove US forces from Syria. Iran’s foreign minister met with Syrian regime officials on Wednesday and said the US should leave Syria. In addition Turkey and Russia’s president are meeting soon.

An airstrike on southern Syria hits an alleged drug factory, causing damage but no casualties

An airstrike early Thursday hit an alleged drug factory in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, causing damage but there was not word on casualties, Syrian opposition activists said. They said the attack was believed to have been carried out by Jordan’s air force, AP reported.

Jordan’s state media reported over the past weeks that several drones carrying drugs were shot down after crossing from Syria.

The Captagon industry has been a huge concern for Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as hundreds of millions of pills have been smuggled over the years, where the drug is used recreationally and by people with physically demanding jobs to keep them alert.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist who covers developments in southern Syria said the target was also used as a narcotics warehouse where smugglers would prepare and package illegal drugs before smuggling them across the southern border into Jordan.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, also reported the strike, saying the factory was destroyed. Meanwhile, the pro-government Sham FM radio station said the strike hit a farm, causing material damage. Neither immediately reported any injuries or deaths.

The strike was over the village of Um Rumman, a stone’s throw from the Jordanian border, in the Druze-majority southern Sweida province where anti-government protests have stretched for a second week.

In May, an airstrike over a village in the southern Sweida province killed a well-known Syrian drug kingpin and his family, which activists believe was conducted by the Jordanians. Amman has been concerned by militias’ drug smuggling across the Syrian border into the kingdom, most notably highly addictive Captagon amphetamines, which have turned into an estimated multi-billion-dollar industry in war-torn Syria.

Jordan has never confirmed nor denied conducting May’s airstrike but has said on several occasions that it would use force in its ongoing efforts to combat smuggling across the border. Neither Jordanian officials nor Jordanian state media have yet commented on Thursday’s strike.

The strike also comes as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries continue to work to rekindle ties with Damascus, after relegating Syria to a pariah state because of President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011. The uprising later turned into an all-out war, now in its 13th year, that splintered the country and killed over 300,000 civilians in the first decade, according to the United Nations.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Western governments have accused Assad and associates in Syria’s cash-strapped government of taking the lead in Captagon production, and have sanctioned relatives of Assad, Lebanese drug lynchpins, businessmen and other associates in Syria for their involvement in the industry.

AANES official discusses Syria’s challenges with EU Parliament Member

The representative of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in Europe discussed on Wednesday the political challenges they are facing with a member of the European Parliament, North Press reported.

This was during a meeting held inside the Parliament building, where Abdulkarim Omar, the representative of the AANES in Europe, and Javier Nart, the European Parliament member, convened to discuss the matter.

Omar highlighted the urgent need to expedite efforts towards a political solution that would end the Syrian crisis and alleviate the significant humanitarian suffering endured by Syrians inside and outside the country, according to the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES.

The AANES official discussed how international interest in the Syrian crisis has diminished, along with the reduction in international financial support for Syrians, while they continue to face daily challenges and threats, particularly from the Islamic State (ISIS) threat.

The European Parliament member expressed strong support for accelerating the political process to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. They emphasized the significance of engaging all relevant Syrian parties, including the AANES, in determining the course of the political solution and the future of the country.

Furthermore, they underscored the crucial role of the international community in fulfilling its responsibilities by offering various forms of support and assistance to AANES. This support is particularly important as the AANES intends to conduct fair trials for ISIS militants involved in war crimes, as outlined by the Foreign Relations Department.

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