(Photo credit: US Marine Corps)
According to an official summary of the 25 January UN Security Council session on Syria obtained by Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, the US is actively working to establish ‘red lines’ opposing normalization with the government in Damascus, the return of Syrian refugees, and the reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation.
Regarding the return of refugees, Al-Akhbar reports that instead of encouraging a repatriation process, the US is urging host countries to “double their support” for refugee programs, despite the great social and economic burden posed by the refugee crisis on some of these countries, most notably Lebanon.
The report adds that the US and EU have made reconstruction, refugee repatriation, and the lifting of sanctions dependent on their “repeated conditions,” one of which is Syria’s acceptance of a “credible and comprehensive political process,” which is considered by many to mean a political process dictated by Washington.
It also highlights the UK’s hostility towards Damascus during the session, specifically regarding the Syrian drug trade and the government’s alleged “drug production and smuggling,” which the recently imposed CAPTAGON Act aims to use as a pretext to expand economic sanctions.
Al-Akhbar also refers back to an earlier report which revealed that a US-British military delegation met with representatives and activists in the Al-Rukban camp of Syria’s southeastern ‘de-escalation zone’ – “in an attempt to explore the possibility of establishing” a new autonomous ‘self-administration’ zone, similar to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), led in part by the US-backed Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
This represents the continued US interest in promoting federalism and division in Syria. Despite this, the area of Al-Rukban camp, which surrounds the Al-Tanf region where the US occupation base is situated, lacks commercial feasibility given that there is no oil facility or even a sustainable source of water for agriculture there.
Although the plan may not materialize, Al-Akhbar says, the US and UK show ‘special interest’ in the project’s ability to “disrupt” the Damascus-Baghdad highway.
Regarding Washington’s increased support to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions housed in Al-Tanf, the report highlights a US-UK role in providing joint training to these militants, particularly in the “use of heavy machine guns in air defense operations,” signifying a US-led, western initiative aimed at keeping Syria in a state of conflict.