Published: 11:52, February 4, 2024 | Updated: 12:51, February 4, 2024
US attacks in Syria, Iraq escalate regional tensions
By Xinhua

Members of Iraqi Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces clean the rubble after a US airstrike in al-Qaim, Iraq, Feb 3, 2024. (MOBILIZATION MEDIA OFFICE / AP)

DAMASCUS - The US strikes on both Iraq and Syria to curb Iran's influence pose a significant threat to peace in an already volatile Middle East, and are likely to exacerbate tensions in the region, Syrian experts say.

As many as 23 fighters, including nine Syrians, were killed in the US attacks on Iranian strongholds in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour on Friday night and into Saturday morning. While 16 people, including civilians, were killed by the US airstrikes on the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces in Iraq.

Following the attacks, the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Saturday lashed out at the US administration, accusing Washington of being a primary source of global instability.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry summoned the US charge d'affaires in Baghdad to protest against the US airstrikes in western Iraq, said a statement by the ministry

In a scathing statement, the ministry said the US military forces are threatening international security and peace through attacks on nations, peoples, and sovereignty, and escalating conflicts in the Middle East.

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The ministry accused the United States of attempting to revive terrorist activities in the region, emphasizing its consistent role in escalating conflicts in the already volatile Middle East.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry summoned the US charge d'affaires in Baghdad to protest against the US airstrikes in western Iraq, said a statement by the ministry.

The US charge d'affaires received a protest note, in which Iraq expressed its rejection and condemnation of the US airstrikes that targeted Iraqi security forces as well as civilian sites in the Akashat and al-Qaim areas, according to the statement.

The note stressed Iraq's rejection of making its territories an arena for settling scores between conflicting countries, saying "our country is not the appropriate place to send messages and show force between opponents," said the statement.

Experts say that the attacks, purportedly a response to the drone attack that killed three American soldiers in Jordan on Jan 28, signify growing tensions arising from the Gaza conflict and a shared objective between the US and Israel to curtail Iran's influence in the region.

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Osama Danura, a political expert based in the Syrian capital Damascus, said the attacks are consistent with a pattern of conduct that the US has adopted.

Instead of addressing the Gaza conflict diplomatically and politically, the US has escalated the conflict through hostility, endangering peace in the already volatile Middle East, he said, adding such actions undermine international peace by prolonging the confrontation in the region and beyond.

"The latest escalation only worsens the situation," Danoura noted, adding the US attacks are giving opponents of American forces in Syria more motivation to resist and drive out the occupying forces.

The US has made a mistake in seeking its ultimate goal and the way it is currently handling the situation, and "will inevitably face the consequences of their actions," he said.

US soldiers patrol an area in the town of Tal Hamis, southeast of the city of Qameshli in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh governorate, on January 24, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

Danoura pointed out that the US attacks will inadvertently benefit terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS), as the fighters targeted by the attacks are responsible for combating the remaining members of the IS in the region.

These operations have given these groups a chance to come back to life and regain control of the area where they were previously hiding and operating cautiously, he said.

Following the US attacks, the Syrian Defense Ministry on Saturday said the move, which it said lacked any justification, was an attempt to weaken the Syrian army and its allies in their fight against terrorism.

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Meanwhile, Russia strongly condemned the US strikes on Syria and Iraq and is seeking an immediate review of the emerging situation through the United Nations Security Council, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani also condemned the recent strikes by the United States on targets in Syria and Iraq.

Kanaani said the US strikes were in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, as well as international laws and the United Nations Charter.

Muhammad al-Omari, another Damascus-based Syrian political analyst, said that the US attacks were evidence that Washington was attempting to use force to destroy a threat or undesired group.

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The US seeks to entangle Iraq in internal political conflicts, sowing the seeds of discord and chaos in the country, which is yet to recover from the 2003 invasion by the US-led coalition, he said.

"This aggressive action has placed the region in a highly volatile state. We are now just one step away from direct confrontation, and any mishandling could push us over the edge," Al-Omari warned.