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Syria Today – Syria in Iranian Debt Trap; Refugees in Lebanon Face Dead-End

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Syria in Iranian Debt Trap; Refugees in Lebanon Face Dead-End

Iran is intensifying its efforts to collect approximately $50 billion in debts from Syria, stemming from various agreements signed over the years, including a recent strategic cooperation memorandum. 

These efforts have been largely unproductive as many agreements, covering sectors like telecommunications and energy, remain unimplemented. A significant meeting in April 2023 between Syrian and Iranian economic committees led to the formation of a committee specifically focused on debt issues. 

This committee is tasked with exploring alternatives for debt repayment, including potentially settling debts with land instead of cash.

Iran’s increasing pressure comes at a time when the Syrian regime, under President Bashar al-Assad, faces considerable economic challenges and is unable to fulfill these financial obligations. The situation is exacerbated by Russia’s dominant presence in the Syrian economy, which competes with Iranian interests. 

Despite the agreements, Tehran’s economic investments in Syria have largely been unsuccessful, leading to frustration and heightened demands for repayment, especially as Iran seeks to maximize returns on its investments amidst ongoing Russian competition and the impact of Western sanctions.

‘I can’t return to Syria but there’s no future for me in Lebanon’

The Irish Times has published a long report on the worsening conditions for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Syrians fleeing the Assad regime for Lebanon find themselves in a precarious and unwelcoming environment. Recently, the Lebanese army has been detaining and deporting Syrian refugees, a practice that has escalated over the past year. 

Despite the dire situation they escape from, which includes conflict, economic hardship, and forced military conscription in Syria, their prospects in Lebanon are bleak. 

Many, like 29-year-old Muhammad, live below the poverty line and work in unstable, low-paying jobs. Muhammad, who has aspirations of furthering his education and entering politics, feels trapped as he sees no future for himself in Lebanon and hopes to migrate to a third country for better opportunities.

Tensions in Lebanon have worsened, especially after a local Lebanese official was allegedly killed by a Syrian, sparking violent protests and increasing hostility towards Syrians. The Lebanese government is tightening residency restrictions and openly discussing intolerance towards the Syrian presence. 

The UN reports that less than 20% of Syrian families have legal residency, leaving many vulnerable to detention or deportation. NGOs highlight collaboration between Lebanese and Syrian forces in deporting refugees, often exposing them to exploitation by smuggling gangs. 

The Lebanese government’s actions, including the proposed removal of Syrian settlements, are criticized by human rights organizations as coercive tactics forcing Syrians to return to unsafe conditions in Syria.

Drones fill the skies of northern Syria

Enab Baladi reports that the airspace northern Syria is crowded with various types of drones, used for military reconnaissance, attacks, and media purposes. This region has become a testing ground for these technologies, with the United States, Russia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Syrian regime forces deploying 39 different drone types since the conflict began in 2011. These drones are being tested to enhance military strategies and tactics.

Notably, locally produced suicide drones, monitored and operated under Russian-Iranian supervision, have been increasingly used by the Syrian regime since early 2024. These drones can operate within a range of up to 10.5 kilometers, targeting vehicles, bunkers, and other strategic sites.

However, drones used for photography face significant challenges due to jamming techniques. Military and security installations equipped with jamming devices often disrupt the drones’ GPS and control signals, leading to frequent crashes. 

This interference comes from both military jammers and civilian infrastructure like 5G towers. The costs for repairing drones can range from $250 to $500, depending on the damage sustained during these incidents.

Israel Joins Syria and Iran as Repressive Regime in Banning Al-Jazeera

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Sunday condemned the Israeli cabinet’s decision to ban the Al Jazeera news network in Israel. 

Media outlets and freedom advocates have said that the network’s office was closed and its equipment was confiscated. Israeli cable channels were forced to delete Al Jazeera from their offerings, and even its website has been blocked for Israeli residents. Since Israeli news channels do not show the effects of the government’s total war on Gaza civilians, the Qatar-based channel had been one of the few sources of comprehensive coverage of the Gaza campaign for those Israelis who know English or Arabic.

On April 1, the Israeli parliament, dominated by the country’s far right parties, passed a law permitting the government to halt the broadcast of foreign channels in Israel “if the content is deemed to be a threat to the country’s security during the ongoing war.” 

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi called Al Jazeera an “incitement channel” and a “mouthpiece of Hamas.” It was a ridiculous charge for anyone who actually watches the live stream of Al Jazeera English.

Carlos Martinez de la Serna, the New York-based director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, “CPJ condemns the closure of Al-Jazeera’s office in Israel and the blocking of the channel’s websites. This move sets an extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel. The Israeli cabinet must allow Al-Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely in Israel, especially during wartime.”

The Future Perspective of Kurds Sovereignty Over Northeastern of Syria

In a long feature on the future of the Kurdish controlled region in Northeast Syria, Euroasia.come elaborated on the Kurdish issue which has long been a complex facet of the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape, particularly in the context of Syria’s northeastern region 

Governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) since 2018, this area has emerged as a crucial player in the regional power dynamics due to its strategic location and resource wealth.

The AANES, covering areas such as Jazeera and Afrin, is not only pivotal for Syria’s economic stability due to its agricultural and oil resources but also holds significant cultural and historical heritage. However, the future of Kurdish autonomy in this region is highly uncertain, influenced by internal dynamics and external pressures.

Regionally and internationally, the roles of Turkey, the United States, Iran, and Russia are critical, with each having distinct strategic interests in Syria. The U.S. has facilitated Kurdish autonomy through its military presence, but its ongoing commitments are wavering due to broader global priorities and political changes, such as potential shifts in U.S. foreign policy following presidential elections.

Turkey’s opposition to a Kurdish autonomous region near its border presents a significant geopolitical challenge. The normalization of relations between Turkey and Syria could further complicate the survival of Kurdish autonomy if it leads to agreements that restrict or reshape the governance of these areas.

Internally, the Kurdish administration faces challenges from ISIS remnants, inter-ethnic tensions, and disputes within Kurdish factions. These issues are exacerbated by the refusal of many countries to repatriate their nationals who joined ISIS, leaving the AANES to manage these security risks alone.

In summary, while the Kurdish regions in Syria have developed a form of governance that integrates military and political structures essential for their self-administration, the longevity of this autonomy is jeopardized by external political pressures, regional conflicts, and internal divisions. The future stability and political landscape of this region will likely depend on negotiations and alignments among multiple regional powers, including Syria, Turkey, and Kurdish leaders.

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