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Syria Today – U.S. Hits Iran in Syria; Teheran Denies Involvement in Attacks

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – U.S. Hits Iran in Syria; Teheran Denies Involvement in Attacks

For the second time in recent weeks, the U.S. carried out strikes on Wednesday against a weapon storage facility in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said was used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. In parallel, the Iranian envoy to the United Nations (UN) said that Iran “has never been involved in any attack or action against U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq”.

US carries out new strikes against facility used by Iran in Syria

Reuters reported that the United States, for the second time in recent weeks, carried out strikes on Wednesday against a weapon storage facility in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said was used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups.

In a statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the strikes were conducted by two U.S. F-15 fighters and were in response to the recent attacks against U.S. forces.

Austin said the attacks against U.S. troops must stop.

“If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people,” Austin added.

A senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the military had watched the location in Deir al Zor province for some time and was confident there were no civilian casualties.

The official said the military had tracked a “couple” of people near the facility overnight, though they were not believed to be civilians and an analysis was ongoing to see if anyone was killed.

US military strengthens Middle East force protection amid Iran-linked strikes

The United States launched airstrikes on a weapon storage facility in eastern Syria on Wednesday, targeting a site believed to be used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. The strikes were a direct response to recent attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria, which have raised tensions in the region.

In a statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the airstrikes were “a necessary and proportionate response to the ongoing attacks by Iran-backed groups against US personnel and interests in Iraq and Syria.” He warned that further attacks would “result in further decisive action.”

The airstrikes were carried out by two F-15 fighter jets and targeted a facility that was believed to be storing weapons and ammunition used by Iranian-backed militias to attack US troops. The strikes caused significant damage to the facility and are likely to have a major impact on the ability of these groups to carry out future attacks.

The airstrikes come at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Iran. The US has accused Iran of supporting attacks against US troops in Iraq and Syria and has warned that it will take further action to protect its forces. Iran has denied these accusations but has also warned the US against taking any “miscalculated” actions.

The airstrikes are likely to further escalate tensions in the region and could lead to further conflict. However, they also send a clear message to Iran that the US will not tolerate attacks against its troops.

A Damascene revolution: Syrian artist Sara Shamma revives women lost in time

The New Arab published a report on Sara Shamma, a renowned painter from Damascus, Syria, who is holding an exhibition titled ‘Bold Spirits’ at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery, running from September 26, 2023, to February 25, 2024. 

The exhibition is curated by Helen Hillyard and draws inspiration from the forgotten women depicted in historic paintings at the gallery.

Shamma’s work primarily focuses on themes of death and humanity, often expressed through self-portraits and lifelike depictions of children. Her artistic journey involves spontaneous color choices, layering oil colors for depth, and avoiding sketches or predetermined outcomes to keep the process engaging and surprising.

The exhibition features Shamma’s reinterpretations of works by Old Masters like Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Guarino, and Levy. Shamma relates to these masters’ techniques and their ability to capture motherhood and other aspects of life. Her personal connection with the paintings, including incorporating her own children into the works, adds depth and inspiration to her art.

Shamma’s art also reflects her interests in subjects like the Syrian civil war, modern slavery, and death, which have resulted from extensive research on these topics. She believes that experiences of death, whether personal or related to leaving a country behind, serve as powerful sources of inspiration and personal growth.

The Syrian conflict has influenced Shamma’s artistic approach, emphasizing hyper-realistic scenes created with oils, transparency lines, and motion to convey deep emotions and voids. Sara Shamma’s work has garnered global recognition, and she has used her art to support causes such as aiding Iraqi refugees through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She is also offering a self-portrait masterclass at Dulwich Gallery for art enthusiasts interested in learning from her unique techniques.

Shell companies multiply in Syria; Old ones evade taxes

Enab Baladi reports that the Syrian Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection set a deadline for companies to regularize their status under Law No. 36 (2021). However, only around 5% of the companies complied with this law, out of a total of 1,226 companies. Some company owners were concerned about raising the minimum capital for their companies, even though the law did not obligate them to do so.

Companies that regularize their status are required to increase their declared capital, which determines initial taxes and subsequent tax rates based on business activity. This tax burden may discourage many companies from regularizing their status.

Several factors contribute to the low interest in complying with the law, including capital migration, a deteriorating economic situation, and an unfavorable investment climate. Electronic tax reporting has also exposed tax evaders, leading some companies to prefer closure over facing fines and penalties.

Additionally, many companies have quietly exited the market without liquidating their operations, further contributing to the lack of interest in increasing their capital. The Ministry’s inability to enforce capital increase laws is another reason for non-compliance.

The article also mentions the different types of companies in Syria, including joint-liability, limited partnership, joint-venture, limited liability, and joint-stock companies, each subject to specific laws.

Furthermore, the report highlights the proliferation of shell companies in Syria, with a significant number of new companies registered annually, potentially serving as fronts to evade Western sanctions and facilitate trade in the challenging economic and political environment. These shell companies often operate alongside genuine businesses, making it difficult to distinguish between them.

Iran denies involvement in attack on U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq

The Iranian envoy to the United Nations (UN) said that Iran “has never been involved in any attack or action against U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq,” the official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.

Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, made the remarks in a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday.

He rejected as “baseless claims” the accusation made by the United States in a letter to the UN Security Council in late October.

Iravani argued that the U.S. allegations, based on an “arbitrary and incorrect” reading of a UN Charter article, failed to have any legal basis and validity.

He said based on international law, “an occupying state is not entitled to resort to the right of self-defense as a valid justification for its unlawful actions within the occupied territory.”

“The U.S. remarks were aimed at whitewashing its illegal military presence and actions in Syria, including targeting civilians and critical infrastructure,” he claimed.

He stressed that Iran’s presence in Syria was “completely legal” and in response to the Syrian government’s official request to be provided with support in its fight against terrorism.

As U.S. bombs Iranian sites in Syria, Houthis shoot down drone over Red Sea

In a sign of the increasing violence in the Middle East, two U.S. F-15 fighters on Wednesday struck what the Pentagon said was an ammunition dump used by Iranian-backed militia groups in eastern Syria, while a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down over the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi forces.

The violence, as Politico reports, comes amid a U.S. military buildup in the region — including the dispatch of two aircraft carrier strike groups, a Marine rapid response unit, fighter squadrons and air defenses — to protect U.S. bases as tensions are fueled by the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the facility that was struck in eastern Syria was one used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “and affiliated groups,” and that the attack was “a response to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates.”

U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria have been attacked by rockets and drones 41 times since the wave began on Oct. 17, with 46 service members having reported injuries from the attacks. Twenty-four of those service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Monday. Two of those were transported to Germany to receive further treatment.

“The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities,” Austin continued. “We urge against any escalation. U.S. personnel will continue to conduct counter-ISIS missions in Iraq and Syria,” he said, referring to the Islamic State.

Also in the region, the Houthi-led government in Yemen shot down a U.S. MQ-9 surveillance drone flying in international airspace over the Red Sea on Wednesday. The attack follows an episode last month in which a U.S. destroyer shot down several ballistic missiles and drones launched by the Iranian-backed group toward Israel.

The uptick in violence throughout the region comes after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel that killed 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians.

The ensuing Israeli response — which has included a massive air barrage and a ground invasion of Gaza that Israel says is targeting Hamas leadership and weapons, as well as command-and-control sites — has roiled the region as the civilian death toll spirals.

The Biden administration has been criticized for continuing to supply Israel with precision-guided munitions to continue the fight, but U.S. and Israeli officials have pointed out that Hamas purposefully places these sites amid civilian infrastructure in the densely packed Gaza Strip.

“In this war, protecting and supporting civilians is difficult for a range of reasons,” Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

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