RESIDENTS of Syria’s Raqqah, which once served as the capital of the self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ of the Daesh terrorist group, yearn for the return of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, US magazine Foreign Policy reports.
Many Raqqah locals mistrust the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants that currently runs the Arab-majority city, the publication said.
Raqqah citizens, it added, believe that only the government of Assad can bring stability to the war-wracked city.
An activist, named by the pseudonym Hamoude, told Foreign Policy that his relatives who had fled Raqqah, said, ‘We will come back when the regime returns.’
Daesh had once declared Raqqah as the de facto capital of a ‘caliphate’ it started to build in Iraq and Syria in 2014 through a campaign of violence, invasion and extreme brutality against residents.
In October 2017, the United States and its SDF allies claimed victory over Daesh after carrying out a notoriously ruinous campaign in the northern Syrian city.
The Raqqah battle ended with a secret deal allowing hundreds of Daesh terrorists and their families to withdraw to neighbouring Dayr al-Zawr Province.
A US-backed grouping of militants that has overrun the Syrian city of Raqqah says the city will be part of a system of ‘federal government’ in the country’s north.
Almost two years into the SDF occupation of Raqqah, locals ‘have also found SDF rule wanting’ and are ‘cautious in expressing opposition to the SDF out of fear of retribution,’ according to the Foreign Policy report.
It also cited rumours among Raqqah’s residents about an imminent handover of the city to the Damascus government after the liberation of Idlib Province, the last significant militant stronghold in Syria.
The report further stressed lack of basic services in Raqqah and the destruction of schools and hospitals have led locals to compare their current living conditions to their lives prior to the outbreak of the 2011 conflict.
‘We used to have free water, free electricity, free bread, free schools, free hospitals. Now everything is expensive,’ said Samira, an older woman from a relatively well-off family, who later professed support for the return of the Assad government.
The report also highlighted complaints by Raqqah citizens about the slow pace of the city’s reconstruction process and the inadequate stabilisation funding from international donors.
‘Meanwhile slow reconstruction, inadequate funding, displeasure with Kurdish-led rule in an Arab-majority city, and above all a yearning for security after so many years of war are keeping the SDF from gaining widespread support in the city, according to dozens of conversations with local residents, SDF commanders, activists, and business leaders in the city,’ it said.
‘The SDF leadership finds itself unable to provide basic services due to shortage of funding, and ongoing militant attacks in the city are undermining its popular legitimacy.’
Additionally, the report pointed out that decision-making power in Raqqah is ‘monopolised’ by long-term cadres of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.
‘The cadres are always present in the committees and offices, even though they are not technocrats with specialisation,’ said Raqqah activist Zaid, noting, ‘there is clear marginalisation’ of locals.
- The secretary general of Hezbollah has roundly dismissed claims that the Lebanese resistance movement is exerting control over the Beirut government, emphasising that such lies are aimed at inciting public opinion and plunging Lebanon into turmoil.
‘In Lebanon, some people try to portray Hezbollah as the leader of the country and in control of all state institutions. I tell you this is the biggest lie in the history of Lebanon,’ Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated in a televised speech broadcast live from the Lebanese capital of Beirut last Friday evening.
He warned that those making such unsubstantiated claims are actually giving the Saudi and Israeli regimes, among other enemies, the chance to hatch and advance their plots against Lebanon.
Nasrallah says the new Lebanese national unity government is not controlled by Hezbollah resistance movement.
‘They know they are lying and their aim is to hold Hezbollah accountable for the current economic situation,’ Nasrallah pointed out.
‘Hezbollah has never sought to create parliamentary obstruction… Hezbollah has never hid behind anyone or any media outlet. It has long stood up against cowards,’ he said.
The Hezbollah chief then expressed regret over the Lebanese government’s recent crackdown on businesses hiring Palestinian workers without permits, arguing that the issue has been ‘politicised.’
A senior Hamas official has called on Lebanese authorities to end the crackdown on unlicensed Palestinian workers in the country.
‘Concerning the employment of foreign citizens in Lebanon, we have always stated that Palestinians are different from foreign workers as the latter have home countries to return to, but Palestinians don’t. Palestine is under occupation (of the Israeli regime) indeed,’ Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah secretary-general then called on Lebanese political factions to look at the issue of Palestinian refugees working in the country from a humanitarian perspective.
Nasrallah also condemned the recent demolition of a cluster of Palestinian homes on the edge of occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, which has sparked international criticism.
Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah has denounced as a ‘war crime’ Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes on the outskirts of the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.
He said Israel’s demolition of about 70 homes in 10 apartment buildings in Sur Bahir neighbourhood on Monday was in line with US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for ‘peace’ between the Israeli regime and Palestinians, dubbed ‘the deal of the century.’
- A Russian submarine and missile ships took part in a naval parade marking Russia’s Navy Day in the Syrian port of Tartus on Sunday, the Defence Ministry’s press service said in a report on Sunday.
‘The diesel-electric submarine Stary Oskol, the Admiral Grigorovich frigate, the Pytlivyi patrol ship, the Velikiy Ustyug and Uglich small missile ships’ took part in the parade along with other vessels, the press service said.
The air parade involved Su-24M bombers, Su-34 and Su-35 jets, Mi-8AMTSh and Mi-35M helicopters that flew over the port, the press release said.
A ceremony to award sailors and ship crews took place onboard the Admiral Grigorovich frigate.
The Main Naval Parade in Leningrad and Kronshtadt on Sunday involved more than 4,000 personnel, 43 warships and submarines as well as 41 aircraft.
Naval parades were also held on Sunday in Baltiysk, Sevastopol, Severomorsk and Astrakhan, as well as in Tartus.
- Moscow is urging all partners in the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to take part in work towards post-war restoration of Syria, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a BRICS foreign ministerial session on Friday.
‘It is crucially important to support the processes of Syria’s post-conflict restoration. We urge participation in this activity and note in this connection efforts taken by our Chinese and Indian friends,’ the Russian diplomat said.
The main tasks for the settlement in the Arab republic are restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity, extermination of the remaining terrorists, assistance in the return of refugees with an advance of the political process led by the Syrians themselves in line with Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council, Lavrov
‘The launch of a constitutional committee that is expected shortly will be a crucial stage on this path,’ the top diplomat stressed.