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memri
May 2, 2018 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

In the past two months there have been increasing threats against the U.S. forces in Syria, emanating from the Syrian regime, its writers, and its supporters.[1] These threats escalated even further following the conflicting announcements made recently by the U.S. administration regarding the continued presence of its troops in Syria,[2] and following the April 14, 2018 American-French-British attack on Syrian sites and military bases connected to the regime's chemical weapons capabilities.

In recent weeks the Popular Resistance in the Eastern Region, a pro-regime militia established in February 2018 to oppose the U.S. presence in Syria, claimed that it had fired mortar shells into an American base in the town of Ayn 'Issa in northeastern Syria, and on April 2, 2018, other regime supporters announced the establishment of a similar militia, also in the northeast of Syria, called  the Popular Resistance in Hasaka, which they declared would undertake military action against the U.S. and Turkish presence in the country. Liwa al-Bakr, a Shi'ite militia operating in Syria, likewise announced that it had launched military action against the American forces.[3]

At the same time, the Syrian regime continues to stack up important achievements on the battlefield, the most recent being the takeover of the eastern Ghouta, and it is close to completing its takeover of the southern Damascus suburbs and of the eastern Qalamun suburb – all of which is making it confident of its ultimate victory and providing it with the confidence to speak out against the U.S. presence in Syria. Therefore, the Syrian state press and pro-regime press continue to publish articles expressing threats of military action against the U.S.

In addition, following U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis' April 26 statement that "the French reinforced us in Syria with special forces in the last two weeks," and following reports of French forces entering northern and northeastern Syria, several articles have appeared in the Syrian press that also include threats against France.

This report reviews the threats directed at the U.S. forces in Syria by the popular resistance militias and in the the Syrian press in recent weeks.

Syrian Resistance Militias: We Will Fight The U.S. Forces Until We Have Purged Syria Of Their Filth

The Popular Resistance In The Eastern Region: We Fired Mortar Shells And Rockets At U.S. Forces North Of Al-Raqqa

As mentioned, various pro-regime militias in Syria have recently increased their threats against the U.S. forces in the country. On April 1, 2018, the Popular Resistance in the Eastern Region (also known as the Popular Resistance in Al-Raqqa) announced that it had fired two mortar shells at the headquarters of the U.S. forces south of the town of Ayn 'Issa, north of Al-Raqqa, which is apparently the first attack carried out by this body since it was established on February 26, 2018. In an announcement it issued following the attack, the group vowed to continue "grinding down the American occupation forces wherever they are, until the Syrian land is completely purged of the American occupier."[4] Four days later, on April 5, 2018, this group reported that it had carried out a rocket attack on the American headquarters in the French Lafarge cement factory in northwestern Ayn 'Issa, in response to the decision by U.S. President Trump to maintain the U.S. military presence in Syria.[5]

It should be noted, however, that the veracity of these claims remains unclear, since they were not corroborated by any other source. The Popular Resistance in the Eastern Region posted alleged footage of the attacks, but there is no way to verify its authenticity. In addition, the Syrian Democratic Forces, allies of the U.S. in northeastern Syria, denied that the April 5 attack had taken place.[6] 

The Popular Resistance In Hasaka: We Will Attack The Bases Of The American Occupation And Its Troops With An Iron Fist

Meanwhile, on April 2, 2018, it was announced that another militia, the Popular Resistance in Hasaka, had been established to act against the U.S. and Turkish presence in Syria. The group's founding announcement said: "In the name of the Syrian Arab people, we, the people of Al-Hasaka, the people of the authentic Arab identity, declare that we will wage resistance by every means against the American occupation and the Turkish occupation whose goals are [to maintain] long-term [presence in Syria], to carve up the country, rob its resources and assets, and incite sectarian extremism. Therefore, we have decided, we and every decent person in this country, to take military action against the occupation and to attack its bases, its movements, and its soldiers with an iron fist and to firmly refuse to be lenient with those who collaborate with it. This [is what we will do] until we have purged our land of their filth. We ask our fellow [Syrian] citizens not to go near their centers [the concentrations of U.S. and Turkish forces] and to stay away from their bases and their troops, which will be a target for the members of our resistance [forces] and the honorable people [of Syria]. We swear by Allah and by the homeland, the nation, and the savior and commander of the nation, President Bashar Al-Assad, that we will sacrifice all that is dear to us and that our souls will be the flame of liberation of our land, which has been defiled by the colonialists. The defense of this land is a privilege for us and not an obligation."[7]


Symbol of the Popular Resistance in Al-Hasaka (Source: Facebook.com/236858797057195  )

The Shi'ite Liwa Al-Bakr Militia: We Have Assembled Jihad Fighters And Others Who Are Willing To Sacrifice Their Lives For Allah

On April 6, 2018, Liwa Al-Bakr, a Shi'ite militia in Syria which is supported by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and by Hizbullah, also stated that it would take up arms against the U.S. forces. Its announcement said: "We, the leadership of Liwa Al-Bakr, hereby announce the commencement of combat operations and jihad against the American occupation and its allies in Syria. We have assembled jihad fighters and [other] people who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Allah and for the liberation of every part of our precious homeland where the feet of the Americans and the Turks have trodden. We call upon all Syrians to keep their distance from all the positions and bases in which the cowardly American occupier houses his soldiers who have murdered our people or his planes that have demolished the cities and towns of our beloved homeland over the heads of their residents – because these [bases] will be targets for the brave resistance fighters of the Al-Bakara tribe and Liwa Al-Bakr. We reiterate the commitment we made to the eternal leader Hafez Al-Assad to protect the Arab Islamic path, as we promised him in the past, to be loyal soldiers of [his son], the commander and savior Bashar Al-Assad, and to defend the integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and the unity of the Arab nation."[8]


Liwa Al-Bakr's announcement as posted on nedaa-sy.com, April 7, 2018

Amid these developments, on April 7, 2018, journalist 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, owner of the London-based Arab news and opinion website Rai Al-Yawm, quoted "a source close to the Russians and Iranians" as saying that "there are confirmed reports about the formation of Iraqi and Syrian resistance forces supported by Russia to attack the Americans." 'Atwan added: "The moment of truth will come after Trump announces his retreat from the nuclear deal with Iran... Wait a few weeks, [and groups similar to] Hizbullah, Al-Hashd Al-Sha'bi, and the Houthi Ansar Allah will resume action in northern Syria." According to 'Atwan, "President Trump has begun to realize that allowing his troops to remain in Syria – [especially] considering the 'cold war' that is quickly heating up these days – will lead to many losses in money and lives."[9]

The Syrian Press: The Weapons Of The Syrian Troops Are Advancing On The American Forces; American Bases In Syria Will Pay A Heavy Price

At the same time, the pro-regime Syrian press continues to publish articles denouncing the U.S. and threatening attacks on its forces and bases. For example, Nasser Mundhir, a columnist for the Syrian establishment daily Al-Thawra, claimed that the regime's victory in Eastern Ghouta heralded the beginning of a new phase in Syria. He wrote: "The liberation of Ghouta today brings the war against Syria to its end, and brings us closer to a [direct] confrontation with the puppet masters [i.e., the countries behind the rebel groups], now that the puppets [themselves] have been defeated. The rifle of the Syrian Arab soldier is moving closer and closer to the American forces and the Ottoman invaders, whose fate will be similar to that of the defeated terror organizations."[10]

 'Aida Umm 'Ali, another columnist for the Al-Thawra daily, stressed that the U.S. would pay a heavy price for its attack in Syria, writing: "The U.S., which received with great sorrow [the news of] the liberation [of Eastern Ghouta] and the loss of the [rebels'] last stronghold in the Syrian game, resorted to the tactic of [using] the chemical [attack as an excuse] for shifting the campaign to the south [of Syria], and will [now] lose the last gamble that it can make [in the Syrian arena]. Its decision to turn to military aggression [i.e., the April 14 attack], even if it did not affect the balance of power and was intended only to make [the U.S.] presence felt, [was launched] without understanding that [the U.S.] military bases would pay a heavy price, which would open wide the door to confrontation. Therefore, there is nothing left now to the U.S. but the abyss, since the resistance axis has sworn to free the land of the American filth."[11]

In an article he published on April 17 on the occasion of Syria's Independence Day (which is also referred to as Evacuation Day, to commemorate the expulsion of the last French soldier from Syria in 1946), the secretary of Syria's Social Nationalist Party, Joseph Sweid, stated that Syrians must now carry out a new expulsion of the foreign forces from their country. He wrote in the pro-regime daily Al-Watan: "The resistance will continue until our Syria is purged of the last of the terrorists and the last of the foreign enemies, regardless of their [attempts of] intimidation, their threats or their various forms of cruelty. We will remind them of the withdrawal of the American Marines and the last of the Israeli soldiers from Lebanon under the attacks of the resistance, and remind them also of [what happened] in Aleppo, Homs, Deir Al-Zor, Ghouta, and in the rest of the cities and regions of Syria that have been liberated or are being liberated through the bravery of the courageous Syrian Army, its allies and the popular Syrian resistance... To all the resistance [fighters] who are defending Syrian independence and sovereignty, I say: 'It appears that the independence which we watered with our blood on the day we planted it [i.e., on the day Syria achieved its independence] is once again asking for the blood in our veins. Yes, we love life, but we [also] love death when death is the path that leads to life."[12]

Other articles in the Syrian press issued threats against France, following reports of additional French forces being sent to northern and northeastern Syria. Al-Thawra columnist Nasser Mundhir said that France considers the war in Syria a golden opportunity to restore its Mandatory rule over the country. He added: "[French President Emmanuel] Macron, who is dying to strengthen the presence of his invading forces in Syria, and who is demanding that his partners in the most recent tripartite attack – [U.S. President Donald] Trump and [British PM Theresa] May – take action in order to stay in Syria indefinitely, is ignoring the fact that its military presence in some parts of Syria is doomed to failure. The fate of these forces will be no different from the fate of the ISIS and [Jabhat] Al-Nusra terrorists, who perpetrate crimes under French-American-British cover, and who are now retreating from the attacks by the Syrian Arab Army…"[13]

Similarly, Ali Qassem, editor of the Al-Thawra daily, wrote: "The French role [in Syria] is absurd, and constitutes a hopeless gamble for a role that will achieve nothing for the French but military defeat and further political weakening… [France's] nostalgia for the age of colonialism does not mean that it is capable of assuming this role. Its subservience to the U.S., and the fact that it wields strength on America's behalf, do not mean that it can do what it is doing or that it can err in its political and military understanding [with regard to its actions], because its attempt [to intervene in Syria] is doomed to failure, just like previous attempts…"[14]

 

[1] For more information see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.7402, Syrian Regime: We Will Expel U.S. Forces From Syria By Means Of Popular Resistance, March 28, 2018.

[2] On March 29, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that the American troops would leave Syria "very soon." A few days later, on April 3, he said that he expected that the withdrawal of the forces from Syria would occur within a few months. Later, before the April 14 tripartite attack on Syria, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he had convinced Trump to keep the troops in Syria, but the White House stated that Trump was still interested in a quick withdrawal. On April 24, after meeting with Macron, Trump announced that the U.S did not wish to withdraw its troops from Syria before leaving a strong mark and denying Iran direct access to the Mediterranean via Syria. For more information see: Washingtonpost.com April 4, April 24, 2018.

[3] It should be noted that prior to the Western attack on Syria, numerous threats against the U.S. were also voiced by elements in the Iraqi Al-Hashd Al-Sha'bi (Popular Mobilization Forces) militia. For example, the general secretary of the Al-Nujaba Akram Al-Ka'bi militia said on April 13, "We are waiting for you [Americans] in Syria. We will resist you, fight you and defeat you just as we defeated your terrorism in the form of the Islamic State, [Jabhat] Al-Nusra and the other unbelievers who are pawns in your hands" (burathanews.com, April 14, 2018); however, following the attack these threats by Al-Hashd Al-Sha'bi decreased significantly.

[4] Facebook.com152466685450, April 2, 2018.

[5] Facebook.com152466685450, April 6, 2018; for the U.S. statements on this topic, see endnote 2, above.

[6] Al-Hayat (Dubai), April 8, 2018. 

[7] Facebook.com/236858797057195 , April 4, 2018.

[8] The announcement was posted on Syrian websites; as of this writing, the militia's Facebook page is unavailable.

[9] Raialyoum.com, April 7, 2018.

[10] Al-Thawra (Syria), March 29, 2013.

[11] Al-Thawra (Syria), April 15, 2018.

[12] Al-Watan (Syria), April 17, 2018.

[13] Al-Thawra (Syria), April 25, 2018.

[14] Al-Thawra (Syria), April 29, 2018.