Syria Today – Three US Soldiers Killed On Syria Border

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

Three US troops have been killed and 25 injured in a drone attack on a US base, the US military said.

US Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement the casualties were caused by a drone attack at a base in northeast Jordan, near the Syria border. Jordan on the other hand, said the attack happened on Syrian territory.

US President Joe Biden said that the attack was carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups”.

This is the first time US soldiers have been killed in the region after Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel.

There have been attacks on US bases in the region but so far there have been no casualties reported by the US army.

“While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

“Have no doubt – we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing.

“Jill and I join the families and friends of our fallen – and Americans across the country – in grieving the loss of these warriors in this despicable and wholly unjust attack,” the statement added.

U.S. won’t leave Iraq or Syria any time soon

An article from POLITICO, discusses the ongoing presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and the prospects of their withdrawal.

The article opens with a focus on the current talks about American forces withdrawing from Iraq and Syria, coinciding with increased attacks from Iran-backed militants in the region.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced formal discussions regarding the future of the 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are also internal discussions about withdrawing the approximately 900 troops from Syria, although the administration has denied any immediate plans for withdrawal.

According to the report, there’s no imminent order from President Joe Biden for a withdrawal. The Pentagon also maintains that Iraq has not requested the U.S. military to leave.

This commission, agreed upon in August, is set to discuss the transition of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS based on various factors, including the threat level, operational requirements, and the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.

The article highlights the complexities in the region, such as Israel’s war in Gaza and attacks by Iranian proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. These tensions complicate the discussions about U.S. troop withdrawal.

Senior administration officials confirmed discussions about the withdrawal from Syria, focusing on the utility of troops, the mission’s duration, and the implications of a potential withdrawal.

The U.S. is evaluating the threat posed by ISIS if troops leave Syria and the risk of U.S. service members being injured by Iran-linked groups.

The discussions about ending Middle East missions could be politically beneficial for President Biden, especially in contrast to former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy stance.

The article also touches on other international developments, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s openness to talks to end the war in Ukraine and efforts by CIA Director Bill Burns to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas.

Overall, the article emphasizes the complexity of the decision-making process regarding the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Syria, considering various geopolitical factors and internal administration discussions.

Jordan: Fighting Syrian drugs could mean deals with groups

A DW report discusses the increasing military action by Jordan’s Air Force against drug and weapon trafficking targets in Syria, particularly focusing on the trafficking of Captagon, an illegal amphetamine. Recent strikes have resulted in casualties, highlighting the escalating situation. Jordan’s efforts are in response to the movement of weapons and explosives across the border, posing a significant security threat.

The Syrian government, which relies on amphetamine production for income, has condemned these airstrikes but expressed a desire to avoid escalating tensions with Jordan. Captagon trafficking to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states has been a long-standing issue, driven by demand among party crowds and workers. Saudi Arabia has pressured Jordan to curb this trafficking, threatening economic consequences.

Jordan is also concerned about becoming a consumer market for these drugs and the increased flow of weapons, especially considering the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and Jordan’s large Palestinian population.

Syria, having been readmitted to the Arab League in May 2023, claims to have increased efforts to curb trafficking. However, diplomatic efforts to address this issue have been largely unsuccessful.

The article notes that parts of the Syrian regime are involved in the drug trade, with the U.S. and EU imposing sanctions on individuals connected to the Assad regime for their role in Captagon trafficking. The scale of this trade is significant, with the Middle East seeing a dramatic increase in amphetamine seizures.

The complexity of the situation is heightened by the fractured state of Syria after years of war, with various regions controlled by different groups and the influence of foreign powers like Russia and Iran. Effective reduction of trafficking might require Jordan to collaborate with local proxies, which could be a challenging scenario for the Syrian regime.

Recently, there have been signs of potential cooperation between Jordan and local Syrian groups to combat smuggling, indicating a shift towards a collaborative approach to address this issue.

The Biden administration is repeating old mistakes in Iraq and Syria

In an article by The Telegraph, Columnist Daniel DePetriscritiques President Biden’s Middle East policy, particularly in relation to the ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq and Syria. DePetris argues that this policy is outdated and poses unnecessary risks to American lives.

The Middle East is depicted as a region of increasing conflict, with the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and recent U.S. and UK strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

About 45,000 U.S. forces are stationed in the Middle East. However, DePetris focuses on the 3,400 troops in Iraq and Syria, who have been subject to attacks from Iranian-backed militias.

The article mentions that U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have been attacked 151 times since mid-October, including a significant attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase.

DePetris criticizes the Biden administration for continuing the policies of previous administrations, maintaining a military deployment that he argues serves little strategic purpose.

He reflects on the Obama administration’s initial mission against ISIS, which was to destroy its pseudo-state in Iraq and Syria. This mission was considered successful with the liberation of Mosul and the defeat of ISIS in Baghouz by 2019.

The article argues that the Trump administration shifted the goals of U.S. presence in Iraq and Syria to broader, less achievable objectives, such as training Iraqi forces to Western standards and preventing Bashar al-Assad’s regime from retaking Kurdish-held areas.

President Biden is criticized for seeking an “enduring defeat” of ISIS without a clear definition or strategy, which DePetris views as an unrealistic and maximalist goal.

The article compares the fight against ISIS with the ongoing battle against Al-Qaeda, suggesting that completely defeating such non-state actors militarily is a futile endeavor.

DePetris concludes that the U.S. has done everything it can in Iraq and Syria and advocates for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from these regions, warning of the increasing risk of conflict with Iran.

The article presents a critical view of the Biden administration’s policies in the Middle East, questioning the continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Syria and suggesting that it may be time for a strategic withdrawal.

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