Arab tribal leader urges armed resistance against SDF

Arab tribal leader urges 'armed resistance' against SDF amid Deir az-Zour tensions
2 min read
12 August, 2020
In an interview with a pro-regime news site, Nuwaf Al-Bashir claimed that tribesmen were ready to launch an armed resistance against the SDF.
Unidentified gunmen recently killed senior elders belonging two Arab large tribes in Deir az-Zor [Getty]
The self-proclaimed leader of a large Arab tribe has called for the formation of a tribal militia to fight the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces amid rising tensions with Kurdish authorities in Syria's eastern province of Deir az-Zour.

In an interview with a pro-regime news site, Nuwaf Al-Bashir claimed that tribesmen were ready to launch an "armed resistance" against the SDF - a US-backed alliance of militias that seized large swathes of north and east Syria from the Islamic State militant group.

He told Watan Online that it would be possible if they were adequately supplied "with arms and run by a central leadership".

Al-Bashir, who is a member of the al-Bakara tribe, sided with the Syrian opposition after protests broke out against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

Yet in 2017, he declared his loyalty to the regime, in a move activists claim was prompted by monetary incentives from key Damascus ally Iran.

Al-Bashir’s calls come as tension continue to simmer in Syria's eastern Deir az-Zour province over recent days, after unidentified gunmen killed senior elders of two large Arab tribes, the al-Bakara and al-Akidat.

The killing sparked protests, with angry residents storming the local headquarters of the SDF in the city, which is home to an almost exclusive Arab population, accusing the group of being behind the attacks and demanding that they hand over those responsible, according to Sputnik.

The developments are a sign of the deepening ethnic rift between Arab tribesmen and the SDF, who appear to have failed to win the hearts and minds of residents in the region they control. Locals have complained of a lack of services, rising crime, fuel shortages as well as growing Kurdish influence.

Read also: Arab tribal council accuses Kurdish-dominated authorities of 'starvation policies' in eastern Syria

Analysts believe Assad’s major backers, namely Russia and Iran, could capitalise on the tension by supporting tribal proxies in attacking the SDF and US interests in the oil-rich eastern region.

Last week, the Syrian foreign ministry condemned an agreement between a US oil company and the SDF, calling it an illegal deal aimed at "stealing" Syria's crude.

The statement came days after US Senator Lindsey Graham and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to an oilfield deal between the SDF and a US firm during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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