In recent weeks, Syrians have taken a harsher tone towards the U.S. military presence in the country, after the Trump administration, which had started to withdraw its troops from Syria, declared that some of them would remain in eastern Syria to secure the oil and gas fields there. The increasingly aggressive tone became noticeable especially after President Bashar Al-Assad stated in interviews that the continued presence of U.S. troops would encounter popular military resistance that would ultimately compel them to leave. Articles published in the state and pro-regime press stressed that the Syrians are capable of waging such popular resistance against the American occupier and inflicting fatalities that would cause them to withdraw from Syria.
This is not the first time calls for popular resistance against the U.S. forces have appeared in the Syrian press. In the past it was even reported that popular militias had been established for this purpose, although their activity has been negligible.
This report reviews some of the recent statements and articles on this issue.
U.S. troops pass by billboard bearing portrait of Assad in Hasakah province in eastern Syria (Source: Arabi21.com, October 27, 2019)
Assad: The U.S. Presence In Syria Will Encounter Regime-Backed Popular Resistance That Will Inflict Losses On The Americans
In an October 31, 2019 interview on Syrian TV, Assad said, in response to a question about his position on the U.S. military presence in Syria: "After we finish [liberating] the rest of the regions, according to the order of priorities, and come to liberate an area where the Americans are present – I will not boast and say we will send in the army to confront the U.S., which is a superpower, after all. But do we have any [other] options? I think the issue is clear to us Syrians. Will we proceed in the direction of resistance? If there is resistance, the Americans' fate will be as it was in Iraq. But the notion of resistance requires a popular [support base]... a patriotic one, that will carry out the resistance by itself. The natural role of the state in this situation is to prepare the ground and provide all necessary backing to the popular resistance against the occupier."
In a November 15 interview with Russian news agencies, Assad spoke in a similar vein, saying: "The U.S presence in Syria will generate military resistance that will inflict losses on the Americans and thus cause them to leave... The U.S. cannot expect to sit quietly in every area it occupies. Let us remind them of Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is no exception in this context."
Responding to Assad's statements, Sheikh Haider Al-Hammadi, a member of the pro-Assad Forum of Syrian Tribes, said that "the Arab tribes in northeastern [Syria] are ready to fulfill their national role by establishing popular resistance, in which the Tribal Army will be a central component, to confront the American and Turkish occupiers... Many tribe members have expressed their willingness to maintain contacts with the Damascus government in order to begin the resistance activity there [in northeastern Syria]... The desire for popular resistance is not confined to the tribes there, but [is shared by] all components of the Syrian people: Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans and others, since the Syrian identity unites them all, and the enemy is one."
Articles In Syrian Press: The Americans Will Pay For Their Presence In Syria With Blood; We Will Make Their Lives Hell
As stated, threats to target the U.S. forces and calls for popular resistance against them also appeared in the Syrian press. Muhriz Al-'Ali, a columnist for the government daily Al-Thawra, stressed that "the path of resistance is embedded in the heart of every Syrian, as evident from their legendary steadfastness in the global war [that was waged] against Syria for over eight years, and from their thwarting of the plots of their enemies, who wasted hundreds of millions of dollars trying to topple Syria, but to no avail. The stones thrown by the [Syrian] civilians at the convoys of the American invaders as they withdrew from northern Syria indicate that the Syrians do not accept the invaders, but cleave to [the option of] resistance in order to expel them... The presence of invading forces, whether Turkish of American, in some parts of Syria, with the aim of stealing our oil and other resources, will cost them in blood, for our land belongs to us and [they] are forbidden [from staying here]. The people, who are determined to stand fast, resist and liberate [the land], will surely triumph. The triumphs and achievements on the ground prove that we are on the path to a great victory of purging Syria from the filth of the terrorists and invaders."
Another Al-Thawra columnist, Nasser Mundhir, attacked the U.S. as well as Turkey, which controls parts of Syria, writing: "In addition to the Turkish threat, we see the American occupier reinforcing its occupying troops and establishing new occupation bases in order to control the oil fields, prevent Syria from regaining control of them, and obstruct the deployment of the Syrian Arab army along the Turkish border. Here the American-Turkish coordination is clearly visible, [and it is pushing] to escalate the aggression [against Syria], in a maneuver aimed at blackmailing Syria and Russia. This is aimed at gaining achievements [on the ground that can be leveraged]... in any future negotiations for a comprehensive political solution [in Syria] – especially since the American and Turkish occupiers know very well that they will eventually withdraw [from Syria].
"[However,] in the next phase we will see the emergence of new rules in the conflict, which will not necessarily favor the terrorist American-Turkish partnership, even if [the U.S. and Turkey] continue their joint aggression. Syria has many ways to turn the stay of the U.S. and Turkish occupying forces into a hellish [situation] that will boomerang against them, by means of outbursts of popular resistance against these two occupiers. After all, Syrian history is replete with victories against every occupying force."
Lebanese Writer: The Popular Resistance Will Teach The Americans That Syrian Oil Will Cost Them In Blood
Writing in the Lebanese daily Al-Binaa, Lebanese strategic analyst Amin Muhammad Hatit, known for his pro-Assad views, likewise referred to the option of popular resistance against the Americans: "Clearly, a confrontation with the American occupation will not seek to 'destroy the American army.' Its goal will be to inflict pain within its ranks and exact a high price for the occupation, to the extent that will establish the equation 'oil for blood.' This is an equation that the Americans will not be able to tolerate. It makes the price of occupation very high, and will force them to withdraw. Is such resistance possible today? Resistance takes shape according to the general laws of confronting occupation, and continues until it achieves its goals in the given arena, providing that three conditions are met. The first... is the emergence of a resistance cell that is ready for confrontation and sacrifice. The second is the existence of a supportive environment that assists this force, shelters it, and cultivates it. The third is the existence of a supporting force outside the arena of operations that provides financial and moral aid. In the case of Syria, these three conditions are currently met: Resistance cells can form among Syrians who gained combat experience in the general Syria war, or among other Syrians in the occupied area and its environs who can learn from the experience of their allies in the resistance axis. As for the environment, it is currently in a phase of national recovery, especially in light of the positions recently adopted by the tribal leaders. As for the assisting and supporting element, it is provided by the Syrian state and its allies in the resistance axis. All of them have adequate experience in supporting resistance, [whether] in South Lebanon, from which the Israeli occupier was expelled in 2000, or in Iraq, from which the American occupier was expelled in 2011...
"Syria, which has won this war, has chosen the right moment to tell the U.S., the leader of the aggression: Spare yourself the losses and the direct defeat. Leave our land and stop stealing our resources, or else. We believe the Americans will understand the Syrian message and behave in a way that will spare their soldiers' lives."
 Foreignpolicy.com, November 4, 2019.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7402, Syrian Regime: We Will Expel U.S. Forces From Syria By Means Of Popular Resistance, March 28, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 7451, Syrian Threats Against The U.S. Presence In Syria Continue: U.S. Troops, Bases Are In Our Sights And Will Pay A Heavy Price, May 2, 2018.
 Sana.sy, October 31, 2019.
 Sana.sy, November 15, 2019.
 Alahednews.com.lb, November 17, 2019.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), November 17, 2019.
 Al-Thawra (Syria), November 20, 2019.
 Al-Binaa (Lebanon), November 19, 2019.