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Eastern Syria tribes refuse to cooperate with Saudi, Kurdish separatist plans

Fighters with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in Deir Ezzor, Syria on 25 February 2019 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]
Fighters with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in Deir Ezzor, Syria on 25 February 2019 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

Tribes in the east of Syria have refused to cooperate with alleged Saudi Arabian, Kurdish and US plans to create a breakaway state east of the Euphrates River, Arabic-language news site Al-Ahd has reported.

According to reports, the Saudi Minister for Arab Gulf Affairs, Thamer Al-Sabhan, yesterday visited eastern Syria, which is currently under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition group comprising a mix of ethnic groups.

Al-Sabhan’s goal was reportedly to influence the tribes inhabiting the area to join a vague deal allegedly agreed upon by Saudi Arabia, the Kurds and the US to separate the region east of the Euphrates River from the rest of Syria.

Most of the Arab tribes in the region, however, are fiercely opposed to such a plan and sympathise with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for the sake of a “unified Syria”.

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The leader of the Al-Mashahada tribe in Deir Ez-Zour province, Sheikh Haider Al-Hammadi, stated that “all the Syrian tribes, except for the Al-Sharatham, refuse to visit Al-Sabhan and assist them in the blatant interference in our national affairs”.

Hammadi also accused Al-Sabhan – who was accompanied by US officials – of attempting to “[use] funds and the distribution of money” to influence their decision, but said that this “will not change the reality that [Al-Assad] has the loyalty of most Arab tribes”.

The tribes’ refusal comes amid recent incidents which have revealed the distrust they hold for the SDF and the Kurdish-led administration, after claims spread that the SDF is working closely with Daesh in some areas and that Daesh fighters need only pay bribes in order to be released by the group.

Over the past few months, there have been a number of cases which have shown foreign players in the war-torn country that the opinion of the tribes in eastern Syria holds sway. To this end, tribal forums and gatherings have been hosted by both the US and Syrian parties in order to gain their favour.

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