Round Two of a Foreign-Backed Plot to Fragment Syria

Thirteen years after the onset of the war on Syria, a domestic political eruption backed by foreign states has resurfaced, threatening to once again ignite conflict in the country despite years of relative calm. Economic woes today underpin the public grievances expressed on the street. The much-heralded May 2023 reinstatement of Syria in the Arab League has thus far failed to deliver any significant political or economic relief for the beleaguered Levantine state. 

Instead, Syria’s economy continues to deteriorate with the devaluation of the national currency against the dollar. Concurrently, a renewed US initiative to partition and weaken Syria is gaining traction, as Washington strives relentlessly to undermine Damascus’ centrality as a pivotal regional state and geopolitical player.

Underpinning all this is stifling western unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Syria, as well as the territorial encroachments of US, Turkish, and Israeli military forces. 

The illegal occupation of Syrian lands, coupled with the loss and theft of vital oil, water resources, and agricultural bounty by foreign occupation troops and their local proxy militias, further compounds the crisis, as does the recurrent Israeli aggression and missile strikes targeting Syrian infrastructure. 

Within the context of all this devastation, some tough-love decisions made by the central government in Damascus have unsurprisingly ignited a fresh wave of protests that have now assumed a distinctly “separatist” character.

SDF backs Suwayda secession

The initial protests emerged in Syria’s Suwayda governorate following the removal of fuel subsidies, which caused a hike in public transportation costs and raw material prices. These grievances rapidly evolved into political demands, centering on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and policies of decentralization. 

The latter concept implies a form of “self-administration” akin to the separatist Kurdish Autonomous Administration that receives support from the US in the northeastern region of the country.

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), representing the political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – bolstered by the US military occupation and the cover it provides – has overtly endorsed the Suwayda protests and their transformation from socio-economic aspirations into calls for secession. 

The SDF openly seeks to attract western assistance to replicate its Kurdish self-governance model – but in Suwayda. Importantly, this isn’t the first time the SDF has attempted to exert political influence in Suwayda. In 2019, amidst ISIS assaults on the southern governorate, the SDF pursued relations with Druze leaders, engaging in both public and secret talks to garner support for the self-governance initiative in Suwayda.

The initial protests in Suwayda were modest in scale, and attempts by Syrian government opponents to portray these as a massive uprising fell short. The numbers involved continue to be small in comparison to Suwayda’s total population, and have thus far failed to incite a broader nationwide wave. 

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