A return to hostilities in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor) in eastern Syria would serve the interests of the Islamic State (ISIS), the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad and Iran, “all of whom are intent on punishing and exploiting those who live in this part of Syria”, said United States Senator Bob Menendez on Wednesday.
In his statement, Senator Menendez, who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged all parties in Deir ez-Zor and northeast Syria to maintain their commitment to the recent de-escalation efforts, which have received substantial support from the United States.
The senator acknowledged the significant role played by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS, emphasising the importance of their continued collaboration to ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamist organisation.
He went on to stress the necessity for the SDF to take concrete actions to address the genuine grievances of the Arab population in the region and urged the Kurdish-led forces to follow through with the recently announced prisoner releases and political conference to be held in Deir ez-Zor.
After the tensions ease following the recent unrest that resulted in at least 90 fatalities, SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi vowed to address Arab concerns in Deir ez-Zor.
Speaking to Reuters, Abdi said he had met with tribal leaders and would heed their request to release dozens of local fighters who had risen up and been arrested by the SDF.
“We have decided to issue a general amnesty for those involved,” he said, adding, “We have already released half of those arrested and we will release the rest.”
Tensions in Deir ez-Zor escalated when the SDF dismissed General Commander Ahmed Al-Khubail, known as Abu Khawla, from the Arab-majority Deir ez-Zor Military Council for alleged corruption including drug trafficking. Khawla’s supporters in the armed council retaliated, mobilising a rebellion against the SDF.
While the ensuing violence has largely been portrayed as a Kurdish-Arab conflict, Turkey, the Syrian government, and Iran have been accused of strategically fuelling sectarian tensions in the SDF-held areas.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that during the unrest, Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed armed groups had infiltrated conflict zones in the region with the aim of exacerbating clashes.
Abdi also said that the Syrian government orchestrated the infiltration of armed groups into Kurdish-controlled areas of the country.
Kurdish forces regained control of all areas of the region on 6 September.