A large gathering of tribal elders met in Aleppo to discuss and support a plan to expel US and Turkish forces from Syria.
Rabat – On Thursday, August 20, the leaders of 55 Syrian tribes met at the Al-Shahba hotel to reiterate their loyalty to Bashar al-Assad and their opposition to the US and Turkey. The upscale hotel, popular with UN and NGO officials during the Syrian civil war formed the backdrop for a possible new escalation of hostilities in Syria.
The tribes were there to express their support for the Al Baggara and Al Uqaydat tribes that inhabit lands around the Euphrates, near the border with Iraq. Both tribes met earlier this month in Deir ez-Zor, where they blamed the US and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for the murder of local Syrian tribal sheikhs. Local Al Uqaydat leader Sheikh Mutashar al-Hafil died after an alleged assassination attempt blamed on the SDF.
At the posh Aleppo hotel, the tribal leaders indicated that Syrian tribes would support the two tribes in a direct confrontation with the SDF and US forces that are controlling oil fields in Syria. They pledged loyalty to the Syrian regime, saying that “Damascus is the capital for all Syrians, President Bashar Al-Assad is their leader, and the Syrian Arab Army is their military,” according to Syrian publication Al Masdar.
The 55 tribes pledged military or financial support for the two tribes that are in direct contact with the US and SDF in the Euphrates region of Deir ez-Zor. The SDF, Kurdish forces and the US control swaths of Syria’s oil-rich east which limits oil revenues for the Syrian regimes and creates conflict with local tribes.
The US claims to control the oil fields in order to prevent ISIS militants from recapturing the source of wealth, but recent fighting over the oil fields has primarily involved Russian and Syrian forces. The fight over the region has seen the US air-force directly targeting Russian troops in an effort to retain control over the region.
After their gathering in Aleppo, the tribal representatives demanded the unconditional withdrawal of US and Turkish troops. “No person, class or even an entire generation has the right to dispose of any part of” Syria, they declared. As things stand, however, questions remain whether the gathering was organized as part of al-Assad’s continuing efforts to centralize power in Syria or whether the initiative came from the tribal leaders themselves.