At a Friday press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was asked to comment on a recent vote by the US Congress to prolong military intervention in Syria. Mao responded by urging Washington to “immediately end the troops’ illegal occupation and plundering” and repeal crippling sanctions targeting the Syrian economy.
“Since the US began its illegal interference in the Syrian crisis, its military operations in Syria have taken away a large number of innocent civilian lives and caused grave humanitarian disasters,” she said, adding that the US has been “criticized multiple times” by the United Nations and other international bodies for “indiscriminate attacks that may amount to a war crime.”
A Republican-sponsored War Powers Resolution was voted down on Wednesday amid strong bipartisan opposition, with critics of the bill arguing a troop pullout could lead to the resurgence of terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS or ISIL). Introduced by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, the legislation sought a full withdrawal of American soldiers within a period of six months, with the lawmaker observing that Congress never voted to authorize the years-long deployment in the first place.
Mao also implored Washington to “respect other countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” and to stop “aggravating humanitarian disasters” in Syria, where a recent earthquake left more than 7,000 dead. US economic penalties have interfered with relief efforts in the wake of the disaster, prompting further calls from Beijing to drop the sanctions and allow for much-needed aid to enter the country unimpeded.
The People’s Republic has previously highlighted alleged oil theft by US forces stationed in Syria’s resource-rich northeast, where they have long been embedded with Kurdish militia groups. In January, Beijing accused Washington of “banditry” and “plundering,” citing local government statistics asserting that more than 80% of Syria’s daily oil output had been “smuggled out of the country by US occupation troops” in the first half of 2022.
US forces were first sent to Syria in 2014, beginning with special operators followed by conventional ground troops and Air Force deployments later on. Though then-President Barack Obama claimed their mission was focused on combating terrorists, Washington previously sent and oversaw large numbers of arms shipments to jihadist rebel groups seeking to overthrow the government in Damascus beginning as early as 2013.