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Syria Today – U.S. Calls for Political Transition; Iran Joins Fight Against SDF

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – U.S. Calls for Political Transition; Iran Joins Fight Against SDF

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, delivered a powerful speech during a UN Security Council briefing, shedding light on the critical political and humanitarian situation in Syria. Concurrently, North Press captured images of Hashem al-Sattam, the commander of the Iranian-backed Usud al-Uqaydat militia, donning traditional tribal attire and sunglasses as he, alongside fellow militants, crossed the Euphrates River to engage with the SDF forces.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield Addresses UN Security Council on Syria’s Political and Humanitarian Crises

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, delivered a compelling address during a UN Security Council briefing, highlighting the dire political and humanitarian conditions in Syria.

The Ambassador voiced concerns about terrorist groups, some with support from the Syrian regime and Iran, potentially expanding the conflict beyond Gaza by utilizing Syrian territory to plot and launch attacks against Israel. She also mentioned attacks on U.S. forces in Syria, whose primary mission remains the defeat of Da’esh.

In a stern message to the Syrian regime, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield accused it of permitting Iran and terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, to use its international airports for military purposes. This, she asserted, placed civilian travellers at risk, emphasizing that the regime held the power to prevent Iran from exploiting Syrian civilian airports for transporting weapons and fighters.

The United States called on the Syrian regime to rein in Iran-backed militias operating in Syria, halt the flow of foreign arms and fighters through its territory, and cease escalatory actions in the Golan Heights. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield made it clear that the U.S. would respond to any attacks on its personnel and facilities in Syria or against U.S. interests, ensuring that such responses would prioritize minimizing civilian harm.

She also discussed the narrowly-tailored U.S. strikes on Iranian militia sites in eastern Syria on October 27th, justifying them as self-defence actions in response to repeated attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that these strikes were not without warning and that the U.S. would take further necessary measures to protect its people if required.

Turning her attention to the protection of civilians, the Ambassador expressed outrage over relentless attacks by the Assad regime and Russian forces in northern Syria. These attacks resulted in civilian casualties, the displacement of over 100,000 people, and the destruction of vital infrastructure. She criticized the lack of plausible explanations for these actions and accused the regime and Russia of employing a strategy of denial, deflection, and disinformation.

Israel strikes Syria, Lebanon following rocket attacks, military says

Al Jazeera reported that Israel has carried out strikes against military infrastructure in Syria and Lebanon, its military has said, amid concerns the country’s offensive against Hamas could devolve into broader conflict across the Middle East.

Israeli fighter jets struck rocket launchers in Syria and Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response to earlier rocket launches into Israeli territory, Israel’s military said early on Monday.

Some of the airstrikes targeted army posts in the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa, Syria’s defence ministry said, leading to “some material losses.”

The ministry said Israel had struck at around 1:35 am (2335 GMT) “from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting two positions of our armed forces in the Daraa countryside.”

Israel’s military has been engaged in cross-border fighting with the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah and has launched repeated air raids on Syria since launching its war on Hamas.

The United States has also carried out attacks on Syria in response to a sharp rise in rocket and drone attacks on its forces in Syria and Iraq, which it has blamed on Iran-backed proxy groups.

On Thursday, the Pentagon said it had carried out strikes on two facilities in Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran-backed groups after President Joe Biden earlier pledged to respond to attacks on US personnel.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned of regional escalation if Israel continues its war against Hamas, saying earlier this month that, “Muslims and resistance forces will become impatient, and no one can stop them.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the conflict could spill “beyond the borders of the Middle East” if Israel did not end its bombardment of Gaza.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said in an interview with ABC News that there is a “real” risk of the war escalating into a wider regional conflict.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN on Saturday that his country did not want to see the war spread and that it was “totally wrong” for Washington to blame Tehran for attacks on its forces without providing proof.

Iran, which backs both Hamas and Hezbollah, has denied any role in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. US and Israeli officials have said they have not found evidence of its involvement.

Head of Iran-back militia crosses Euphrates to fight SDF in Deir-ez-Zor

The commander of an Iranian-backed militia crossed on Sunday to areas east of the Euphrates River to fight the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and attack the US-led Global Coalition bases in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, eastern Syria, North Press reported.

North Press detected photos of Hashem al-Sattam, the commander of the Iranian-backed Usud al-Uqaydat militia, wearing traditional tribal outfits and sunglasses while crossing the Euphrates River along with other militants to fight the SDF.

A local source told North Press that al-Sattam crossed the River near the town of Diban in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor adjacent to the base of the Global Coalition in the al-Omar oil field. 

On Sunday, Diban and surrounding villages witnessed clashes between gunmen affiliated with the government forces and Iranian-backed militias, and the SDF.

The National Defense Forces (NDF), affiliated with the Syrian government forces, held on Sunday a funeral ceremony for one of their militants in the town of Sabikhan in the east of Deir ez-Zor, and another for an NDF commander, Muhammad al-Jibara, 44, in the town of Abu Hardoub who had crossed to areas held by the SDF.

Syria strikes show US a “cool customer” in containing Gaza crisis…for now

Andrew Tabler published an op-ed in London-based al-Majalla, in which he discusses the evolving situation in Syria, with a focus on U.S. responses to Iranian-backed militias and Israel’s actions in the region. It underscores the need for a careful and strategic approach by the United States to prevent further escalation and maintain stability in the Middle East.

Tabler highlights the recent U.S. airstrikes on positions outside Al-Bukamal in Eastern Syria. These airstrikes were in response to multiple attacks by Iranian-supported militias against U.S. forces in Syria and neighbouring Iraq. The escalation of attacks against U.S. forces is concerning and has led to casualties among U.S. service personnel.

The op-ed notes a significant increase in Israeli airstrikes in Syria, particularly targeting airports in Aleppo and Damascus. These strikes are seen as a response to the movement of Iranian-backed groups toward Israel from Syria. The Israeli strikes aim to disrupt Iranian weapons shipments and militia movements in the region.

The article expresses concern that the increasing hostilities in Syria, coupled with Israeli forces massing along the Gaza frontier, could lead to a more significant conflict along Israel’s northern border. The situation is delicate, and there is a risk of a destructive regional conflagration that could involve U.S. allies and adversaries.

Tabler discusses the use of suicide drones by Iranian militias in their attacks against U.S. forces in Syria. These attacks have been on the rise throughout the year, leading to casualties among U.S. personnel. The article suggests that these attacks have different implications in Syria compared to their context in Iraq.

Israeli airstrikes in Syria are primarily aimed at countering Iranian-backed groups’ movements and weapons shipments. The op-ed highlights reports of Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, moving personnel and weapons in Syria, likely contributing to increased Israeli strike activity.

Tabler emphasizes the need for the United States to maintain a composed and calculated approach in Syria. It suggests that Washington should continue to establish deterrence through precision strikes while avoiding an escalation that could lead to a broader regional conflict with Iran.

He briefly mentions the ongoing Gaza crisis and the need for measured responses, especially during sensitive moments. It underscores the importance of the United States in managing responses to provocations by Hamas and Iranian-supported groups.

He suggests that Washington’s messages to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, delivered through the United Arab Emirates, have not been effective in preventing Iran from escalating its activities in Syria. This highlights the limitations of al-Assad’s ability to control Iranian behaviour without external military action.

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