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Syria Today – Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Face Backlash After Abduction of Party Official

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Face Backlash After Abduction of Party Official

Lebanon’s interior minister vowed Tuesday to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in killing a political official, in a case that triggered an uproar, Al-Monitor reproted.

According to AFP, anti-Syrian sentiment has soared following the Sunday disappearance and death of Pascal Sleiman, a coordinator in the Byblos (Jbeil) area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to the Syrian government and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Sleiman was killed in what the Lebanese army said was a carjacking by Syrian gang members, who took his body to Syria.

Lebanese Army Arrested Suspects of Killing LF Official BY SYRIANS

“The army’s Intelligence Directorate has managed to arrest most of the Syrian members of the gang that carried out the abduction operation,” the army said in a statement.

“During their interrogation, it turned out that the abductee was killed by them during their attempt to steal his car in the Jbeil region and that they transferred his body to Syria,” the army added.

“The Army Command is coordinating with Syrian authorities over the body’s handover and the investigations are continuing under the supervision of the public prosecution,” the army said.

In earlier statements, the army had announced the arrest of five Syrian suspects.

All businesses were closed in the city of Jbeil on Monday in protest of Sleiman’s abduction.

Sleiman’s phone was reportedly found in the town of Thoum in Batroun after he was kidnapped and his car stolen while his kidnappers’ car was found Monday in Tripoli by army intelligence agents.

Political and religious leaders in Lebanon condemned the incident, while Grand Jaafarite Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan warned against “political exploitation” and “sectarian mobilization.”

Pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar newspaper had reported Monday, based on information it received from sources in the Lebanese Forces, that the party “is keen on civil peace” and is against throwing accusations against any party before the army’s investigation ends.

The daily said a car with a foreign license plate and with four armed men inside it had intercepted Suleiman’s car as he returned from a funeral in the town of al-Kharbeh, between the town of Lehfed and the Mayfouq-Haqel road.

“An audio recording was circulated of Suleiman talking to someone when the gunmen intercepted his car,” al-Akhbar said. Suleiman is heard asking them not to kill him before the call was cut off, the reports said.

IDF identifies rocket fire from Syria, strikes terror infrastructure and source of launch

The Israeli army identified one rocket launch from Syria fired toward the area of Yonatan in the Golan Heights and returned fire, striking the source of the launch on Monday night, the army announced on Tuesday. No injuries or casualties were reported in the attack.

Fighter jets later, early Tuesday morning, struck “terror infrastructure belonging to the Syrian military in the vicinity of the town of Mahajjah in southern Syria”, as well as struck another Syrian military post.

Iran has vowed to avenge the death of the senior commander in the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammed Reza Zahedi, who was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria earlier in April. 

In a report published earlier this week containing statistical information regarding the Gaza war, the IDF noted that since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war and as of April 2, some 35 launches had crossed into Israeli territory. 

From Reagan to Obama, presidents have left office with ‘strategic regret’ − will leaving troops in Iraq and Syria be Biden or Trump’s?

Charles Walldorf, a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University, wrote a long article for The Conversation, delving into the concept of “strategic regret” experienced by U.S. presidents upon leaving office, focusing on their foreign policy decisions. He cites instances from Lyndon Johnson’s distress over the Vietnam War to Bill Clinton’s remorse over Somalia and Rwanda, Barack Obama’s admission of the Libyan intervention as his worst mistake, and Ronald Reagan’s regret over sending troops to Lebanon.

The current geopolitical landscape, with U.S. troops stationed in Syria and Iraq, is analyzed as a potential source of future “strategic regret” for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Approximately 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq are highlighted as vulnerable targets for missile attacks by Iranian-backed proxies, increasing the risk of an incident reminiscent of the 1983 Beirut bombing that killed 241 U.S. service personnel.

Walldorf outlines the parallels between the U.S. military presence in the Middle East today and the situation in Lebanon in the 1980s, noting the secondary nature of U.S. security objectives in Syria and Iraq and the high exposure of U.S. troops. He warns that current U.S. forces face clear dangers, including missile attacks from Iranian proxies and the potential for mass-casualty events.

The professor also critiques the illusion of safety and the potential for hubris stemming from temporary lulls in violence, drawing on historical precedents where such complacency led to significant strategic errors. He argues that the intensely partisan political climate in Washington could exacerbate the situation, pressuring the sitting president to avoid perceptions of weakness and potentially leading to escalated military responses.

Walldorf suggests that a significant escalation, particularly involving Iran, could have widespread and lasting negative consequences, including expanding U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts against the preference of many Americans across the political spectrum.

In conclusion, while recognizing that strategic regret is not inevitable and that Biden or Trump has alternatives to avoid such outcomes, Walldorf emphasizes the importance of learning from past presidents’ mistakes. He suggests that an awareness of historical errors could guide current and future administrations in making more prudent decisions regarding U.S. military involvement abroad, potentially avoiding the cycle of regret experienced by their predecessors.

The Syria I came back to is not the one I left

BBC Middle East correspondent Lina Sinjab revisited Syria for the first time since leaving Damascus in 2013, amid the civil war. Her return unveiled a country marked by the juxtaposition of unchanged leadership visuals, with omnipresent posters of President Bashar al-Assad, against the backdrop of a nation dramatically altered by conflict. Despite the familiar landscapes and the regime’s efforts to project modernity, Syria is grappling with a severe economic downturn, with widespread shortages prompting long queues for basic necessities.

The article highlights the cultural resilience and boom amidst this economic collapse, with a flourishing arts scene providing a semblance of normalcy and an outlet for expression in a war-torn society. However, the presence of foreign nationals and fighters, particularly from Iran and Russia, has sparked resentment among Syrians, with accusations of occupation and interference.

The political landscape is equally fraught. The Assad regime’s alignment with powerful allies like Saudi Arabia hints at a desire for regional reconciliation and economic revival, driven by investments from Gulf states. Yet, the daily reality for many Syrians is a struggle against poverty, with stark disparities between the wealthy and the destitute becoming increasingly visible.

The report conveys a complex picture of Syria today: a country clinging to its cultural heritage and communal ties in the face of ongoing political, economic, and social challenges.

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