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US officials visit Syria’s Deir el-Zour to defuse Arab tribal unrest

Senior US officials visited the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province in eastern Syria on Sunday to defuse an insurgency by Arab tribes against Kurdish rule that is destabilizing northeast Syria, US officials, security sources and local residents said.

A backlash by an Arab tribe against the rule of the Kurdish YPG militia has led to clashes that have killed over 150 people and injured dozens. The militia forms the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the insurgency is the biggest threat to their rule since they finally drove Islamic State out of part of the north and east of the country in 2019.

US Assistant Assistant Secretary of State for Syria Ethan Goldrich and Maj. Gen. Joel Vowell, who is leading the anti-Islamic State coalition, met Arab tribal leaders and SDF commanders and agreed to “address local grievances” and “cease violence as quickly as possible.” de-escalate”. “Avoid casualties,” the State Department said.

The arrest of a renegade Arab commander by the SDF last month sparked riots that soon engulfed a string of towns from Busayrah to Shuhail, in a strategic oil belt in the heart of Arab tribal territory east of the Euphrates River.

Arab tribal fighters initially drove Kurdish-led forces out of several major cities, but the SDF have begun to regain the upper hand.

The US military presence in SDF-controlled areas has halted the spread of Russian- and Iranian-backed militias, which have gained a foothold in areas west of the Euphrates River Basin and which SDF officials say are exploiting internal divisions to bolster their expand influence.

A spokesman for the SDF accused Iran and the government in Damascus of sending tribal militias to wreak havoc in northeast Syria, where most of the nearly 900 US soldiers in the country are stationed.

Arab tribal leaders say they have been stripped of their oil wealth after Kurdish-led forces seized Syria’s largest oil wells following the withdrawal of Islamic State. They also complain that their areas are being neglected in favor of Kurdish-majority areas.

“We want them to leave all of Deir el-Zour, we want the administration of the area to be in the hands of the original Arab inhabitants,” said Sheikh Mahmoud al Jarallah, a tribal leader.

The Kurdish leadership of the SDF denies discriminating against the predominantly Arab population under their rule and blames the remnants of Islamic State for intimidating locals and preventing development of the area.

According to Western diplomats, Washington is pushing for greater say for Arab residents in managing their affairs in the SDF areas.

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