Syria Today – SDF Leader Says Syria Shouldn’t Become US-Iran Battleground; UNGA Asks Israel to Withdraw From Golan

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

Mazloum Abdi, the Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), expressed on Tuesday the desire to prevent the Northeast Syria region from turning into a battleground between the United States and Iranian-backed militias. Simultaneously, the United Nations General Assembly passed a new resolution on November 28, urging Israel to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The resolution highlighted that Israel’s ongoing occupation of Syrian territory serves as an obstacle to achieving a fair, comprehensive, and enduring peace in the region.

Mazloum Abdi expresses concerns over Syria becoming US-Iran battleground

Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, said on Tuesday that they do not want the Northeast Syria region to become a battlefield between the United States and Iranian-backed militias, North Press reported.

This came during an exclusive interview with al-Monitor. “… we do not want our region to become a battlefield between the United States and Iran-backed militias, and we have told them that,” Abdi said.

Abdi added that the Iranian-backed militias “are not only attacking US bases.” He pointed out that they have attacked them and injured several fighters of the SDF.

“An Iranian kamikaze drone attacked an SDF ammunition depot in Deir Ezzor,” Abdi said. “Several of our forces were injured in that attack, and it caused huge material damage.”

Regarding the goal of the attacks launched by the Iranian militias on the U.S. bases in both Syria and Iraq, the SDF commander said that Iran wants the U.S. forces to get out of the entire region. “It is one of their main goals, as it is for the Syrian regime and for Turkey,” he said. “If the Americans leave Syria, they will have to leave Iraq and vice versa.” However, he indicated that “They [the Americans] have told us that they will not leave.”   

Abdi indirectly criticized the stance of the U.S. regarding the Turkish attacks on Northeast Syria. He said the U.S. stance causes the people of Northeast Syria to lose faith in the U.S.

“We are extremely critical of the weakness the United States is displaying certainly with regard to the attacks coming from Turkey,” General Abdi said. “This stance is causing our people to lose faith in the United States.”

The SDF Commander in Chief mentioned that by defeating ISIS and losing more than 11,000 of their fighters, they “not only protected ourselves but [also] the rest of the world — from Europe to the Sahel where Daesh is still active.”  

“We should be supported, not attacked,” Mazloum Abdi, SDF Commander in Chief concluded.

Iran, and Syria discuss expansion of monetary, and banking relations

During a meeting between the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the Syrian prime minister in Damascus, the two sides explored the ways to expand monetary and banking relations between the two countries, Tehran Times reported.

During the meeting, CBI Governor Mohammad-Reza Farzin announced the development of monetary and banking relations between Iran and Syria and the removal of the dollar from the economic and commercial exchanges of the two countries in the near future.

He said Tehran is ready to promote banking and monetary relations with Syria based on the agreements of the presidents of the two countries, and the establishment of an Iranian bank in Syria, which will be realized soon, will be the basis for the growth of relations and commercial cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to the various fields of monetary and banking cooperation between Iran and Syria, the CBI governor emphasized the readiness of Iran to implement agreements in this field and to replace national currencies in the commercial and economic exchanges of the two countries.

The prime minister of Syria, for his part, expressed hope for the bright future of economic relations between Syria and Iran and emphasized that holding technical-economic meetings between experts and officials of the two countries promises to increase the comprehensive cooperation between Syria and Iran.

Referring to laying the ground for the banking and monetary cooperation between Syria and Iran in order to increase the economic relations between the two countries, during the specialized meeting of the governors of the central banks of Syria and Iran, Hussein Arnous stated the step of setting up an Iranian bank in Syria in the near future is definitely a strong foundation for the next steps in the field of development of economic cooperation between the two countries.

UN General Assembly adopts fresh resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from Golan Heights

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a fresh resolution on Tuesday, November 28 asking Israel to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The resolution said that Israel’s continued occupation of the Syrian territory “constitutes a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.”

A total of 91 countries voted in favour of the resolution drafted jointly by some of the Arab countries, including the UAE and Syria, along with Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. 61 countries abstained from voting, TASS reported. 

Countries such as China, Russia, Brazil, and India voted in favour of the resolution. Only eight countries, including the US and the UK, voted against the resolution.

The resolution reiterated that Israel should withdraw “from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.” It asked Israel to initiate talks to resolve the territorial disputes with Syria and Lebanon and instructed the UN Secretary-General to report on the progress on the provisions of the resolution during the seventy-ninth session of the UN General Assembly.

Iran Denies Role In Sustained Attacks On US Forces In Mideast

After weeks of rocket and drone attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq, Iran has once again denied involvement in such attacks.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN claimed Tuesday that his country has “never had a hand in actions or attacks against US military forces in Syria or elsewhere.”

American troops in the region have been targeted at least 73 times since Israel began its onslaught on Gaza in response to the Hamas attack of 7 October, which killed 1,200. Iran-backed militant groups in Iraq and Syria have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Tehran has claimed they are acting independently, angered by the war in Gaza.

However, the Islamic Republic calls these militant groups part of its axis of resistance against the United States and Israel. Almost every armed group that has targeted US forces in recent weeks is backed by or affiliated with the regime in Iran.

And yet Ambassador Iravani flatly denied any Iranian involvement and called such claims “baseless accusations’ – just as an IRGC-affiliated news agency published a video purporting to show images of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower being monitored with drones while passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

While Iran-backed groups have regularly attacked American bases in Iraq and Syria, injuring dozens, the Houthis in Yemen have seized a container ship and frequently launched missiles, including a ballistic missile last weekend that aimed at a US warship in the Gulf of Aden. The US has issued a warning to commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean.

The Pentagon has maintained throughout that it will do whatever it takes to protect American forces. But many on the Capitol have raised questions about the Biden administration’s will to address the threats posed by Iran and its proxies.

Iraq aims to close Al-Hol camp in Syria

The Iraqi National Security Advisor, Qasim Al-Araji, confirmed on Tuesday that the strategic goal of the Iraqi government is to close the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, IraqiNews.com reported.

Al-Araji’s remarks took place during his meeting in Baghdad with the Azerbaijani ambassador to Iraq, Nasir Mammadov, where they discussed the political and security situation in the region as well as strategies to enhance cooperation between the two countries, according to a statement cited by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

The Iraqi National Security Advisor emphasized that the Iraqi government is eager to close the refugee camp in Syria because it poses a real threat to international peace.

Al-Araji explained that extremism represents a challenge to countries and people, noting that the international community must make a concerted effort to counter this grave threat.

Mammadov elaborated that Azerbaijan is eager to work with Iraq to share knowledge and experiences to improve international stability, adding that his country has expertise in fighting terrorism and money laundering.

The Al-Hol camp is located in the Syrian countryside of Al-Hasakah, near the Iraqi border, and is under the control of the US Army and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

France’s UN Ambassador Highlights Syrian Crisis and Calls for Action at Security Council Meeting

France’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mr. Nicolas de Riviere, addressed the Security Council, emphasizing three critical issues regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria and the broader Middle Eastern region.

De Riviere expressed concern about the repercussions of the Gaza crisis, highlighting the risk of regional escalation. France is actively working to prevent the conflict’s expansion and urges regional actors to exercise responsibility and restraint. He warned that any new front against Israel in Syria would further destabilize the country and harm the Syrian population. Therefore, he called for increased collective efforts to avoid such an outcome.

The French ambassador condemned the continued violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime and its allies, particularly pointing out the recent bombings in Idlib province since October. These attacks have resulted in numerous civilian casualties and damaged critical infrastructure, blatantly disregarding international humanitarian law. He criticized Russia for its double standards in advocating for international humanitarian law in Gaza while violating it in Idlib. Mr. de Riviere emphasized the need for a halt to hostilities across Syria in line with the Council’s resolutions.

Mr. de Riviere welcomed the recent renewal of the agreement for humanitarian aid delivery through the Bab al-Salam and al-Rai border crossings. However, he criticized the temporary and conditional nature of this access, arguing for permanent and unimpeded humanitarian corridors. With winter approaching, he urged donors to contribute to the UN’s humanitarian response plan, highlighting the European Union and its member states as leading contributors. He also stressed the importance of preparing for the renewal of the Bab el-Hawa crossing in January.

What is the effectiveness of ICJ provisional measures to prevent torture acts in Syria?

Syrian Enab Baladi published a report on The International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s order directing the Syrian regime to take measures to prevent torture and other abuses is legally binding and politically significant.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order on November 16, 2023, directing the Syrian regime to take measures to prevent torture and other abuses, following a case filed by the Netherlands and Canada. 

This case alleges Syria’s violation of the International Convention Against Torture. The ICJ’s decision is legally binding but its practical effectiveness is questioned by experts due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms and the potential for veto power usage by Russia and China in the UN Security Council. The Syrian regime’s inconsistent engagement with the court and initial boycott further raise doubts about its compliance. 

Despite these challenges, the decision is seen as politically significant and a step towards justice for victims of torture in Syria. The decision has been internationally welcomed and is seen as putting pressure on the UN regarding the Syrian situation. 

However, the actual impact of the ICJ’s order in compelling the Syrian regime to change its practices remains uncertain.

Burning trash to stay warm, displaced Syrians struggle to survive winter

Al-Jazeera published a detailed report on the deteriorated situation of the Syrian displaced in the coming harsh month of winter. 

As winter approaches, displaced Syrians in the informal camp near Idlib are facing harsh conditions. With the onset of rain and cold, families like Fateem al-Yousef’s worry about water seeping into their tents and the health of their children. Displaced since the early years of the Syrian war, Fateem, her husband, and their nine children have been living in Kafr Yahmul camp for four years, where around 70 families reside. The camp inhabitants are resorting to burning pistachio shells, hazelnuts, olives, bits of firewood, charcoal, and even plastic, nylon, and cardboard to stay warm, as diesel prices have skyrocketed.

About 2.7 million people in Syria urgently need aid this winter, as per the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Syrians are grappling with high living costs, unemployment, inflation, and the aftermath of February’s earthquakes. A severe funding shortfall for humanitarian projects in Syria is expected to exacerbate the suffering in 2024.

Families in the camp, like Wadha al-Yousef’s, struggle to make ends meet despite most family members working. The family, like many others, cannot afford adequate heating materials, forcing them to burn harmful waste. This practice has detrimental health effects, particularly on children, causing respiratory diseases and infections. The situation is further compounded by inadequate shelter, with tents not equipped to handle rain and cold. Replacement and proper insulation for tents are urgently needed, yet many families, like Wadha’s, cannot afford the $70 required for more suitable insulation.

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