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Syria Today – UN Risky Procurements in Syria; New Iran President Pledges Support to Assad

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – UN Risky Procurements in Syria; New Iran President Pledges Support to Assad

Enab Baladi published a report in which it highlighted an investigation by the Syrian Observatory of Political and Economic Networks (OPEN) revealing that UN procurements in Syria have decreased but have become riskier. Between 2021 and 2022, UN agencies spent approximately $309 million on Syrian suppliers, a decline compared to 2019 and 2020.

Key findings from the investigation include:

  • 10 out of 14 UN agencies reported a decrease in procurements, indicating a shift in sourcing policies for humanitarian response in Syria. 
  • Despite the decline, procurements from suppliers with high and very high risk levels increased from 47% in 2019-2020 to 52% in 2021-2022. These suppliers often have ties to human rights violators and the Syrian regime.
  • Significant purchases were made from companies and individuals sanctioned for their regime affiliations, including Samir Hassan, Samer Foz, and Mohammad Hamsho.
  • The UN has been criticized for lack of transparency, with a high number of procurements from undisclosed suppliers due to “security” or “privacy” concerns.
  • UN funding has also gone to NGOs with strong regime ties, such as the Syria Trust for Development led by Asma al-Assad, and Nour for Relief and Development led by Mohammad Jalbout, who is accused of human rights violations.

The report highlights the need for greater scrutiny and transparency in UN procurement practices in Syria to avoid supporting entities involved in human rights abuses and regime-affiliated activities.

Iran’s interim president pledges Tehran’s full support for resistance axis, Syria

Interim Iranian President Mohammad Mokhber assures the Syrian leader that Tehran will continue its full support for the resistance axis, particularly Syria.

Mokhber made the remarks in a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday as the latter offered his condolences to the Iranian government and nation over the martyrdom of President Ebrahim Raeisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and their companions in a helicopter crash in the northeastern province of East Azarbaijan on Sunday.

Mokhber thanked Syria’s move to declare three days of mourning and the presence of the country’s prime minister and his accompanying delegation in Tehran to take part in the funeral processions held for the Iranian martyrs.

“Syria is a strategic partner and a constant friend of the Iranian nation,” he added.

He noted that Assad’s message and the presence of the Syrian delegation in Tehran were a consolation for the Iranian people.

Syrians’ right to return should be an international priority

In an op-ed in Arab News, Khaled Abou Zahr argues that the international community must prioritize the right of Syrian refugees to return to their homeland. Since the conflict began in 2011, over 14 million Syrians have been displaced, with more than 7.2 million internally displaced and 5.5 million living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. The conditions for these refugees are dire, with high levels of poverty and limited access to basic services.

Zahr criticizes the international community for its silence and inaction regarding the Syrian regime’s atrocities, including the use of barrel bombs and systematic torture. He emphasizes that the goal should be to enable Syrians to return home safely, without the risk of violence or retaliation from the regime. This, he argues, is essential for ending the cycle of despair and preventing the resurgence of groups like Daesh.

The author calls for a shift from merely managing the humanitarian crisis to creating conditions for a safe return, which would also help stabilize the region. He stresses that Syrians have a right to their land and that the international community should leverage its influence to facilitate their return. Zahr concludes that only the Syrians who have suffered can answer if a great reconciliation is possible, but the international community must support their right to go back home.

Over 50 civil society groups call on US justice department to allocate forfeited assets from Lafarge case to aid Syria atrocity victims

In an open letter, over 50 civil society organizations have called on the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure that assets forfeited in the case against Lafarge are directed to support victims of atrocity crimes in Syria. They expressed concerns that the funds may not directly benefit the victims and urged US Attorney General Merrick Garland to allocate these resources appropriately.

According to Jusrist.org, Lafarge S.A., a French construction materials company, and its subsidiary, Lafarge Cement Syria S.A., pleaded guilty in 2022 to providing material support to ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front (ANF) between 2010 and 2014. The DOJ charged Lafarge with paying these terrorist organizations to operate a cement plant in Northern Syria, earning $70.3 million through these dealings. The company faced criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $777.78 million.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco highlighted that Lafarge’s actions demonstrated how corporate crime could intersect with national security. The open letter stressed the need for the victims of ISIS and ANF’s violations to receive support, given their lack of access to remedies in Syria due to ongoing conflict and displacement. The organizations urged that victims should have input on how the funds are used, aligning with US obligations under international law.

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