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Syria Today – U.S.-Led Coalition Under Fire; Exports Drive Prices Up

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.

Monday, two military bases in Iraq and Syria housing international coalition forces against the Islamic State group were targeted by a drone and rockets, according to a US military official speaking to AFP. At the same time, the export approval for essential food items like olive oil, Awassi sheep, mountain goats, pastries, noodles, and canned legumes by the Syrian Prime Ministry holds considerable consequences for the availability and pricing of these goods within Syria.

Drone, rockets fired at US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Syria

Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of former paramilitaries that are now integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.

These pro-Iran groups violently oppose US backing for Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which erupted on October 7 when the terror group launched a deadly attack into Israel, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities in their homes, communities and at a music festival.

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The United States leads the international coalition battling jihadists in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, and its forces have come under repeated attack in recent weeks.

A drone attack targeted the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq on Monday, without causing casualties or damage, the US military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

And in northeast Syria, “several rockets” were fired at a base in the Al-Shaddadi region, the official added.

Turkey’s airstrikes in northern Syria leave population in desperate humanitarian crisis

Turkey’s devastating October campaign has caused severe and lasting damage to the fragile humanitarian infrastructure of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), leaving the population without adequate fuel, electricity and water as winter approaches, according to a recent Rojava Information Centre (RIC) report.

Turkey launched a heavy and systematic bombing campaign in the Kurdish-led de facto autonomous regions of Syria on the night of 4 October. The campaign resulted in 48 deaths, including nine civilians, and 47 injuries, including 15 civilians.

As outlined in the report, Turkey’s military offensive included 25 warplanes and 64 drone strikes, deliberately targeting vital installations including oil fields, power plants, water stations, a hospital, gas producing stations and industrial sites. This was Ankara’s most egregious military escalation in northeastern Syria since 2019, leaving vital infrastructure in ruins and rendering electricity and water supplies to homes, IDP camps, hospitals, bakeries, mills, pharmacies and schools inoperable.

The impact on the civilian population is profound, and while makeshift solutions have allowed for a relatively quick restoration of basic humanitarian services, AANES lacks the economic and logistical capacity to fully restore all infrastructure, even with the support of various NGOs operating in the region. As a result, the impact will be long-lasting, the RIC predicts.

The people of North and East have faced continuous air and ground attacks, deteriorating economic conditions, water cuts and acute shortages of essential goods since 2012, when the autonomy movement in Syria’s northern regions began, followed by the establishment of AANES in 2018. The already precarious humanitarian and infrastructure situation in the region prior to Turkey’s escalation has exacerbated the impact of Turkey’s recent airstrikes.

The RIC report also takes a closer look at the impact of Turkey’s attacks on the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and on efforts to combat drug trafficking in the region.

Looking further afield, the report examines Turkey’s use of F-16 fighter jets in the context of a possible imminent sale of such aircraft from the United States to Turkey. It also examines the Global Coalition’s response to Turkey’s attacks and raises concerns about possible violations of international law, with allegations that Turkey may be committing war crimes in North and East Syria.

Shining a light on Syria 

Congressman French Hill wrote an op-ed for The Hill, in which he asserted that a resolute, unified global response is crucial to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, exacerbated by Russian involvement and Assad’s regime, and to prevent the normalization of such atrocities in international relations. This stance advocates for continued economic and military support, rejecting normalization with Assad, and calls for a comprehensive global plan to bring about a political settlement in Syria, ensuring secure governance and an end to transnational criminal activities.

Since February 2022, the American public has been shocked by the brutality of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, marked by disturbing images of violence and destruction. Vladimir Putin, in power since 1999, has been involved in numerous conflicts, including in Chechnya, Georgia, Donbas, and Crimea. However, his involvement in Syria, supporting Bashar Al-Assad alongside Iran, has been particularly egregious, with over 300,000 deaths, 14 million displacements, and countless imprisonments.

In August, a visit to Syria and Turkey by a U.S. delegation, including Reps. Ben Cline and Scott Fitzgerald, highlighted the tragic human cost of the war. They witnessed firsthand the suffering of those injured and displaced by the conflict, particularly at the Dr. Muhammad Wassim Maaz Hospital and the SETF’s facilities in Turkey and Syria. A visit to an orphanage revealed the personal tragedies of children who lost their parents to the war.

The delegation noted the global focus on Ukraine, contrasting it with the prolonged suffering in Syria. Recent attacks in Syria, even after their visit, resulted in more civilian casualties, including children. The delegation critiqued past Western policies towards these conflicts as ineffective and too appeasing.

Currently, there is widespread condemnation of Putin’s actions in Ukraine. However, there is concern about the Arab League’s efforts to reintegrate Assad into the international community, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The delegation is skeptical that this will lead to positive changes in Syria, such as peace, refugee return, reduced Iranian influence, or an end to Assad’s drug trade.

The delegation calls for continued economic and military support to Syria, rejecting normalization with Assad, and urges a global plan for political settlement in Syria. This plan should aim for secure, peaceful governance and an end to criminal activities. Such efforts are essential for effective rebuilding and assistance for those devastated by the war and other calamities in the region.

Does export of basic food items affect their availability, pricing

Enab Baladi reported that the export of essential food items, such as olive oil, male Awassi sheep, mountain goats, locally manufactured pastries, noodles, and canned legumes, as permitted by the Syrian Prime Ministry, has significant implications for both the availability and pricing of these goods in Syria. 

Initially, the export of olive oil was banned to ensure local market needs were met at affordable prices due to decreased production. However, the recent decision to allow its export, albeit in limited quantities, might lead to price increases. This is especially concerning given that the price of a tin of oil could rise significantly with the start of exports.

Similar impacts are expected for other goods like sheep, goats, pastries, noodles, and legumes. The exports of these items might contribute to a scarcity in the local market and a subsequent increase in prices.

The decision to allow exports is seen as a response to the economic needs of Syria, aiming to bring in foreign currency and support local industries. Factories are currently operating at a fraction of their capacity, and exports are viewed as a way to fully utilize their potential.

Past decisions to export commodities like potatoes and green garlic led to price hikes for these items in the local market. This indicates a pattern where exports can result in reduced local availability and increased prices.

The government is trying to increase foreign currency inflows through increased exports. This is in response to lifting subsidies on many commodities and the economic challenges faced by the country.

The exports are also seen as a way to support local industries which are suffering due to weak purchasing power in the Syrian market.

The government aims to project an image of stability and openness to international trade to attract traders and encourage their return to Syria.

Exporters face additional costs due to royalties during shipping within Syria, which may affect the feasibility of exports.

The export of basic food items in Syria is a double-edged sword. While it aims to support local industries and increase foreign currency inflows, it also risks increasing the prices and reducing the availability of these items for the local population, many of whom are living below the poverty line. The government’s decision reflects a complex balancing act between economic needs and the welfare of its citizens.

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