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Rare visit highlights US intention on Syria crisis

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-08-30 10:00

The political stalemate in Syria is back under the spotlight, following a rare visit by US politicians to the war-torn country.

Three Republicans from the US Congress — Ben Cline, Scott Fitzgerald and French Hill — visited opposition-controlled areas in Syria's northwest on Sunday. The roughly one-hour stop was the first known trip to the country by US lawmakers in six years.

Analysts pointed to Washington's broader interests in the Middle East, which they said are military rather than economic, as the reason for the visit, and expressed doubt that the US lawmakers were there to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday reiterated the necessity of the withdrawal of illegal US forces from Syria, stressing that the presence of these forces "contradicts peace, security and international laws", Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

He said it causes instability and insecurity in Syria and the region, and pointed out that the crisis in Syria was a result of interference of foreign forces and their support for terrorist organizations. The continuation of harsh and unjust US sanctions has caused the suffering of the Syrian people, he added.

Abdul Wahed Jalal Nori, author of the book State-building under Foreign Occupation: The Case of Iraq, 2003-2008, told China Daily that the United States has broader strategic interests in the region. "This could include geopolitical considerations, regional alliances and safeguarding access to resources," he said.

Mhd Nor Shakr, an international relations scholar at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, said the US believes that its presence in Syria is to back Israel and to deter Iran from expanding, though the US troops are deemed by many as problematic.

Geir Pedersen, the United Nations' special envoy for Syria, told a Security Council meeting last week that the only path out of the war in Syria is a political process, which would also help to address the many crises affecting the country. He said Syrians "are entitled to chart their own destiny".

Arhama Siddiqa, research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in Pakistan, told China Daily that the US accounts for the country's humanitarian crisis.

Syria was readmitted into the Arab League in May. Since then, Arab leaders have been engaging in dialogue with various parties to end the Syrian crisis.

The US has been vocal in its opposition to the Arab states' normalization of ties with the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad, experts said.

About 900 US troops are in Syria. The Syrian government has called out the US in the past for its illegal presence in the region amid accusations that oil is being smuggled by US elements out of the country.

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