Daesh prisoners riot again in northeast Syria

In this Tuesday, July 23, 2019 file photo, an Iraqi soldier searches for Daesh militants during search operation in Taramiyah, north of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)
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Updated 03 May 2020

Daesh prisoners riot again in northeast Syria

  • Kurdish forces sent reinforcements to the prison in the eastern Hassakeh province and US military helicopters flew overhead
  • Further details were not immediately available on the size of the riot

BEIRUT: Militants from the Daesh group rioted in a northeast Syrian prison Sunday, a month after similar violence at the facility allowed four extremists to escape, an opposition war monitor and a Kurdish activist collective said.
Kurdish forces sent reinforcements to the prison in the eastern Hassakeh province and US military helicopters flew overhead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, and North Press Agency, a media platform operating in the Kurdish-administered areas.
Kurdish authorities currently operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 Daesh fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans.
Further details were not immediately available on the size of the riot, and it was not clear if the unrest was triggered by concerns about the coronavirus’s potential spread in the prison.
In late March, two days of riots broke out at the same facility when former Daesh members began knocking down doors and making holes in the walls between cells. Four prisoners escaped but were caught a day later.
The riots were put down by the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Afterward, the SDF’s top commander Mazloum Abdi urged the home countries of foreign fighters to find a solution for the prisoners. The riot was one of the most serious uprisings by the prisoners since Daesh was defeated a year ago, when the SDF seized control of the last sliver of land controlled by the extremists in eastern Syria.
A resurgence of Daesh attacks in both Syria and Iraq has raised concerns that the militant group is taking advantage of governments absorbed in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing slide into economic chaos.
Last month, the US-led coalition said it had handed over hygiene and medical supplies to detention facilities across northeastern Syria, such as hand-washing stations, disinfectant wipes, face masks and examination gloves.
One coronavirus death was reported in Kurdish-held areas of Syria in April. The central government in Damascus has registered 43 cases and three deaths.


Majority Arabs want less of Obama approach from Biden, more youth empowerment - poll

Updated 6 min 10 sec ago

Majority Arabs want less of Obama approach from Biden, more youth empowerment - poll

  • YouGov pan-Arab poll commissioned by Arab News late last year had shown Joe Biden as the favored presidential candidate
  • Biden’s advisers would be well advised to heed the views of the region in shaping the administration’s Middle East policy

LONDON: Joe Biden has become the 46th president of the US, having defeated Donald Trump in an election last November whose outcome evidently failed to heal the political rifts plaguing the country. Trump did not attend Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony.

Complicating matters, a worsening coronavirus crisis and heightened security risks cast a shadow over the inauguration, which saw Biden and Kamala Harris take the oath of office respectively as president and vice president.


Read the full report "The Biden Era: What do Arabs expect?" of the Arab News Research & Studies Unit


While Biden will probably have his hands full tackling the pandemic, a sputtering economy and a growing partisan divide, foreign-policy issues are also expected to get high priority, especially considering his long stint as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As far as the Middle East is concerned, Biden will have his fair share of challenges. Nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents in a pan-Arab survey conducted in late September last year by Arab News in partnership with YouGov, the online polling company, said they believed neither Biden nor Trump was necessarily good for the region.

But that does not mean he cannot break free from the legacy of the Obama administration, in which he served as vice president for two terms. Biden’s advisers would be well advised to listen to the views from the Arab region in shaping the new administration’s Middle East policy.

A majority (58 percent) of the Arab News-YouGov poll’s respondents said Biden should discard the approach to the Middle East of his former boss, Barack Obama. The survey, which questioned people in 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, showed that Obama’s policies remain unpopular among Arabs, who were disappointed by his failure to deliver the “new beginning” he promised during a speech at Cairo University in 2009.

The study — “The 2020 US Elections - What do Arabs want?,” published on Oct. 25, 2020 — also showed that 44 percent of Arabs view youth empowerment as a key driver of global development and believe it should be a priority for the Biden administration.

 

Nearly half of the respondents in the pan-Arab survey said they believed neither Biden nor Trump was necessarily good for the region. (AP)

Arabs’ disappointment with the Trump administration is understandable. In Jan. 2017, he signed an executive order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the US for 90 days. The ban suspended entry of all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prohibited any other refugees from coming into the US for 120 days.


Read the full report "The Biden Era: What do Arabs expect?" of the Arab News Research & Studies Unit


The executive order created an environment of fear among students from Arab countries, driving many to seek higher-education options in Europe. During the first coronavirus lockdown in July, the Trump administration also pushed for the cancellation of all visas issued to international students studying in the US, because they were no longer attending classes in person.

This plan was abandoned following pressure from universities that make millions of dollars in tuition fees from foreign students, and from US companies that often hire highly skilled foreign workers who begin their careers in America after graduating from the nation’s top universities. Biden will not be encumbered by these unpopular Trump decisions and Arabs are unlikely to bear him any ill will in this regard.

That said, there are Trump-era policies that will give Biden a strong leg up in dealing with strategic competitors and malign actors. Take Washington’s approach to Iran. A large proportion of the pan-Arab survey’s respondents — 49 percent in Saudi Arabia, 53 percent in Iraq and 54 percent in Yemen — favored maintaining Trump’s strict sanctions and war posture.

It is notable that respondents in Iraq and Yemen — two countries that have intimate dealings with Iran in the sense that they are overrun with non-state actors controlled by Tehran — were strongly in favor of maintaining a hard line.

The survey did show mixed Arab views on the elimination by the US in January 2020 of Iran’s powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, the head of Quds Force, the division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.

Nevertheless, overall the findings suggested a widespread rejection of President Obama’s strategy of addressing Iran’s ambitions through the 2015 nuclear accord, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while turning a blind eye to its regional plans and expansionist agenda. The nuclear deal was viewed by Israel and Washington’s Arab allies as giving a free hand to the IRGC to create havoc in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon,  and Palestine.

Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA in 2017 and applied a policy of “maximum pressure” that is widely regarded as having put Tehran on the defensive, both strategically and financially.


Read the full report "The Biden Era: What do Arabs expect?" of the Arab News Research & Studies Unit


The US secretary of state-designate, Anthony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that the new administration has “an urgent responsibility” to do what it could to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. He added that a new accord could address Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region as well as its missiles.

As Nadim Shehadi, associate fellow of Chatham House in London, wrote recently, “Iran has a clear strategy of perpetual war against the US and, through its IRGC proxies, collapsing states, building alternative institutions and gaining control.”

The good news is that Biden does not have to choose withdrawal or capitulation. He has been dealt a strong hand against Iran by Trump which he simply has to play to win, for the sake of the US and its allies and partners, and, in the long term, for the Middle East's security, stability and prosperity.

Twitter: @Tarek_AliAhmad