Archive for the ‘Iran and Syria’ category

US IS IN SYRIA UNTIL IRANIAN ‘COMMANDED FORCES’ LEAVE

November 18, 2018

The US State Department had not spelled out a clear policy, and the Pentagon didn’t seem to know if removing Iran and Iranian proxies was actually the official stance.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN NOVEMBER 18, 2018 Jerusalem Post

Source Link: US IS IN SYRIA UNTIL IRANIAN ‘COMMANDED FORCES’ LEAVE

Bonus Link: The Model of Iranian Influence in Syria

{Bottom line…Iran must go. – LS}

The United States is laying the groundwork for a long-term commitment to eastern Syria that will include “stabilization” after the defeat of Islamic State and also the demand that “Iranian-commanded forces” leave Syria before the US withdraws. Over the last six months, this policy has increasingly crystalized. It was finally spelled out by US special representative for Syria engagement James Jeffrey at the end of last week.

US intervention in Syria to target Islamic State began in September 2014 to stop the extremists from taking the Kurdish city of Kobani. By April 2016, the US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main partner force fighting ISIS, had expanded to include hundreds of US special forces and teams assisting the effort on the ground. The US presence expanded during the battle to liberate Raqqa in the summer and fall of 2017.

Over the summer, rumors and then statements began to emerge that the US presence in Syria would remain until Iran leaves. In September, National Security Advisor John Bolton said, “we’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

This would include Iranian proxies and militias. But the US-led coalition did not see that as part of their mission. In a press conference on October 2, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve was asked about the Iranian issue.

“First and foremost [our mission] is to destroy ISIS,” the spokesman said. “The second is to train local troops to eventually take over. And then for the Geneva process to start working.” A Pentagon Inspector-General report went a bit further.

The US State Department had not spelled out a clear policy, and the Pentagon didn’t seem to know if removing Iran and Iranian proxies was actually the official stance. Instead, a US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs said that the US was “desegregating” efforts against ISIS, from the Iran policy, and that confronting Iran was an “ancillary” or “residual” benefit of having a US footprint in eastern Syria.

Jeffrey told a special briefing in Washington on November 14 that the US policy is the “enduring defeat of ISIS, a reinvigorated and irreversible political process in Syria led by the Syrian people and facilitated by the UN and a de-escalation of the conflict that will include all Iranian-commanded forces departing from the entirety of Syria.”

The US military role in eastern Syria “indirectly helps affect Iran’s malign activities,” he said. The goal is not clear: The Iranian commanded-forces must go. This also means a “fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria,” which the US says helped fuel ISIS.

The US special representative also said that getting Iran out is not a military goal. That means the US won’t be trying to confront Iran on the ground in the Syrian areas held by the regime.

He also said that Iran’s presence was a threat to US allies and partners, including Israel, Turkey and Jordan. “The Syrian government invited them [Iran] in, we expect the Syrian government to ask them to leave,” he said.

Jeffrey noted that the US presence in Syria is made legally possible by a 2001 law that allows use of military force as part of the war on terror after 9/11. He also says that what the coalition calls “stabilization” is part of a “stage-four aspect to the military, political, diplomatic, and economic efforts” to ensure ISIS is defeated.

Spelling out how the US mission in Syria is in the process of shifting from an anti-ISIS mission, to one that includes using eastern Syria as leverage against the Assad regime and its Iranian allies is important for the region. Over the last several years, the US presence and end-goal in Syria were not clear. What began as a war on ISIS grew as the US found partners in eastern Syria, particularly among the Kurds, who proved effective warriors against ISIS.

Now, as “stabilization” takes place and the defeat of ISIS continues with battles along the Euphrates, Washington is seeking to explain what comes next. It appears that getting Damascus to remove not only Iranian forces but also those proxies and militias commanded by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is the next step.

 

Iran Rejects Russia’s Call to Remove All Foreign Troops from Syria

May 23, 2018

by The Tower.org Staff | 05.22.18 4:07 pm

Source Link: Iran Rejects Russia’s Call to Remove All Foreign Troops from Syria

{On the contrary, Iran would rather everyone else get out. – LS}

Iran on Monday rejected a call from Russia to pull Iranian forces out of Syria in the event a permanent peace agreement is reached in the war-stricken country, The Times of Israel reported.

“No one can force Iran to do anything,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said, according to the Tasnim news website. {I beg to differ. – LS}

“As long as terrorism exists and the Syrian government wants, Iran will have presence [in Syria],” Qasemi said. “Those who have entered Syria without the consent of the Syrian government should leave.”

After a meeting with Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that foreign powers must pull their troops out of Syria to respect any final political settlement in the country.

“We presume that, in connection with the significant victories and success of the Syrian army in the fight against terrorism… with the onset of the political process in its more active phase, foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Putin said, according to CNN.

Russia’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, later added that Putin’s comment was aimed at Iran, Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, the United States and Turkey.

“This statement involves all foreign troops in Syria including the Turkish, American, Iranian and Hezbollah.” The envoy clarified that Russia had no immediate plans for withdrawal.

Israel has time and again demanded Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, accusing the regime in Tehran of building a permanent military infrastructure in the country and using it as a base for its expansionist behavior in the region, including direct attacks against the Jewish State.

The U.S. echoed Israel’s demand this week, when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech Monday that “Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.” The condition was part of 12 requirements spelled out by Pompeo for a new agreement with Tehran, following the collapse of the JCPOA, that aims to put an end to the Islamic Republic’s “malign” behavior in the Middle East.

In an op-ed for The Hill published last month, TIP CEO and President Joshua S. Block, wrote that the U.S. must “make clear to Moscow” that American forces will not pull out of Syria “before the Iranians are out of the picture. Anything short of that is not up for debate.”

[Photo: Darius Bazargan / YouTube ]

Netanyahu to address country with ‘dramatic news about Iran’ Monday night

April 30, 2018

By Tamar Ben-Ozer, REUTERS April 30, 2018 16:57

Source Link: Netanyahu to address country with ‘dramatic news about Iran’ Monday night

{This should be interesting.  Meanwhile, things seem to be heating up for Iran. Maybe we’ll see just how much intestinal fortitude these guys really have. – LS}

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a televised announcement Monday evening in what his office said would disclosing “dramatic news” regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In a corresponding move, Netanyahu cancelled a scheduled speech at the Knesset in honor of Theodore Herzl day. Channel 10 reports Meir Ben Shabbat, head of the National Security Council, will hold phone calls with collegaues in the UK and France to update them about developments with the Iranian nuclear program.

The announcement will be made from Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to a brief statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a statement on a significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran,” the statement said, offering no further details. Israeli media reports indicate Netanyahu will address the Iran nuclear deal and not the overnight strike in Syria.

Netanyahu met on Sunday with new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the two had spoken about Iran.

Speaking alongside the Israeli leader, Pompeo said: “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats towards Israel and the region.”

Netanyahu had said: “I think the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries, and to all countries, is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

US President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 agreement reached between Iran and global powers, which granted Tehran relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

Israel has long opposed the agreement. Washington’s major European allies have urged the Trump administration not to abandon it and argue that Iran is abiding by its terms.

Minister of Energy Yuval Steineitz said the announcement would be “interesting and impactful.”

 

Israel’s UN Amb: Iran Building the ‘Largest Military Base in the World’ in Syria

January 30, 2018

01-26-2018 Chris Mitchell CBN News

Source: Israel’s UN Amb: Iran Building the ‘Largest Military Base in the World’ in Syria

{Ominous words for sure. – LS}

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon took the unusual step of releasing classified information during his address Thursday to the Security Council. He said it was “… vital for the world to understand that if we turn a blind eye in Syria, the Iranian threat will only grow.”

Danon announced Iran now has more than 80,000 troops under its control inside Syria and accused the Islamic Republic of turning Syria into the “largest military base in the world.”

He listed the following numbers of fighters under Iran’s control inside Syria:

. 3,000 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

. 9,000 members of Hezbollah

. 10,000 members of Shiite militias recruited from across the Middle East

. 60,000 local Syrian fighters

Danon also revealed Iran is building missile bases inside Syria.

Israel has consistently warned that Iran is building a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea that threatens not only Israel but the entire Middle East. Danon stated, “The Shiite crescent has reached our [Israel’s] doorstep … the Shiite crescent is alive and well, do not let Iran turn it into a Shiite horizon.”

He said Iran has three goals: Destroy Israel; destabilize the region, and threaten the entire world.

Danon chided that European nations are doing billions of dollars in trade with the Islamic regime.

“The money the regime earns from your economic deals will be spent on ballistic missile testing, nuclear development and promoting worldwide terror … while you are making a profit; Iran is building an empire,” he said, adding, “Iran starts with Israel; it is you who are next.”

Putin summons Assad to Sochi, takes charge of shaping post-war Syria

November 21, 2017

Putin summons Assad to Sochi, takes charge of shaping post-war Syria, DEBKAfile, November 21, 2017

President Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar Assad agreed in Sochi on Monday, Nov. 20, to start addressing Syria’s political situation now that the “terrorists” are defeated and the war is drawing to a close.

Putin insisted that diplomacy for a Syrian post-war settlement should go forward under UN aegis. Assad replied that he hoped for “Russia’s help in ensuring that the Syrians themselves lead the process, with help from outside, but not ‘interference.’”

The Syrian ruler would accept an external UN frame, but is clearly opposed to any outside attempts by the UN or anyone else to interfere in the country’s internal political dialogue or try to impose solutions on the parties.

That much is evident from the official accounts of the Sochi meeting. Its real content may be quite different. It stands to reason that Putin leaned hard on his guest to make sure that Assad toed the Moscow line.

The Russian president then announced he would be spending the next day in telephone consultations on Syria’s future with US President Donald Trump and a number of Middle East leaders. Word on what transpired at the Sochi interview and in those phone calls will most likely emerge in reports from Moscow and Damascus in the coming days.

Meanwhile, DEBKAfile’s Middle East and Russian sources fill in some of the context:

  1. Putin and Assad may have shaken hands in token of the Syrian war’s end, but both are perfectly aware that it is not yet over. One main stage, the defeat of the Islamic State and liberation of the territory it occupied, is more or less in the bag. But although most Syrian rebel groups have been broken, the civil rebellion persists.
  2. There is no indication of a silent contest said to be afoot between Russia and Iran for the domination of post-war Syria. For now, they complement each other, which each assigned a slice of territorial influence. The Russian army controls parts of the Mediterranean coastland, while Iran is extending its control of the Damascus region and Syria’s two border regions with Lebanon and Iraq and their highway connections. Close teamwork is also apparent on the battlefield with Russia actively supporting Iran and Hizballah.
  3. The Sochi meeting was only the beginning of a long and difficult diplomatic process that could go on for many months, if not years, punctuated with ups and downs, pauses and outbreaks of hostilities.
  4. Bashar Assad survived more than seven years of a vicious and grueling war and emerged as the winner. He may well try to repeat this feat in the diplomatic contest over Syria’s political future.

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, the next steps in Syria will be discussed at a meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian leaders. (It is not yet clear if attendance will be at head-of-state or foreign ministerial level). Syria will not be present. Therefore, this trilateral forum will be in charge.

On the same day, Saudi Arabia has scheduled a meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Riyadh.

A week hence, on Nov. 28, the UN-sponsored conference on the Syria crisis convenes in Geneva in which the US has a major stake..

Syrian/Hizballah may call up Russian air strikes as cooperation deepens

September 18, 2017

Syrian/Hizballah may call up Russian air strikes as cooperation deepens, DEBKAfile, September 18, 2017

Russian air crews in Syria are under new orders to respond directly and immediately to Iranian and Syrian demands for air bombardments, without confirmation from the high commands in Latakia or Moscow.

This has enormously empowered Syrian and Hizballah officers on the ground for taking the war into their own hands. It led directly to Russian planes suddenly bombing a pro-US Syrian force in the Deir ez-Zour province of eastern Syria on Saturday, Sept. 16, and accounts for Moscow’s repudiation of the attack after its confirmation by the Pentagon.

Before the new orders, requests for Russian air cover went through command channels and were not automatically approved.

The license now awarded to Syrian and pro-Iranian Hizballah commanders to contact the operations rooms of Russian air squadrons, without going through the main Russian air base at Hmeimim in Latakia or the Syrian high command in Damascus, dramatically boosts the autonomy of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian commanders in the field. It also gives sharp teeth to Moscow’s decision in August to place the Russian and Syrian air defense commands under unified command.

Word of this game-changer was delivered by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, when he sat down with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad in Damascus last Thursday, Sept. 14. According to DEBKAfile’s sources, they decided the next Syrian army and Hizballah steps after crossing to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, which were to head for the Syrian-Iraqi border and prepare to seize the towns of Abu Kamal and Mayedin from the Islamic State. The time table was established and Russian air, intelligence and logistic support laid on.

The Russian defense minister then flew to Tehran – this time in secret – to discuss Russia’s new operation plans for Syria with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Military leaders.

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the actions set in train by Shoigu have radically ramped up Russia’s military cooperation in Syria with Iran, Syria and Hizballah. They were timed to take place shortly before President Donald Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at UN Center in New York on Monday, Sept. 19.

Although their conversation was generally billed as focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, our sources expect this major turn in the Syrian crisis to figure large in their talks. Washington clearly has no practical plans for countering the assertive Russian-Iranian advances in Syria.

Their ruthlessness was demonstrated Saturday, Sept. 16, by a Russian bombardment of the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF near Deir ez-Zour. Moscow was telling Washington that the US would not be permitted to impede the Syrian-Hizballah initiative for the capture of areas east of the Euphrates and Russia was ready to confront US-backed forces on the ground if they got in the way – while ruling a clash in the air.

The Kremlin was also putting Washington on notice that, after investing massive military and financial resources in Syria, it had no intention to let pro-American forces share in the kudos of the final victory over the Islamic State in Syria, which belonged solely to the Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah war alliance.

For now, the Russian maneuver is heading for a successful outcome. The Pentagon, aside from a lame response to the Russian bombardment, has taken no counteraction.

Syrian/Hizballah troops cross Euphrates to east

September 16, 2017

Syrian/Hizballah troops cross Euphrates to east, DEBKAfile, September 16, 2017

It is worth noting in this regard that, in recent weeks, Israel’s generals and colonels have suddenly dropped references in their discourse to Iran and Hizballah as existential threats.

This may be the time to remind them of an unfortunate precedent. In the months leading up to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israel’s leaders brushed aside the Egyptian and Syrian armies as threats to the state’s survival –  only to find defeat at their hands staring the IDF in the face in the early days of that war.

No less dangerous would be a war fought by the Syrian army, Hizballah and Iran, with powerful Russian military support. By establishing a foothold on both banks of the Euphrates River and both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Iran has taken a step towards pursuing its avowed goal of Israel’s destruction.

***********************************

Shortly after the US-led coalition threatened to strike any Syrian Arab Army units if they crossed the Euphrates River, Syrian and Hizballah troops were marching across imported Russian pontoon bridges to reach the river’s eastern bank. By Friday, Sept. 15 they were able to establish a bridgehead there.

The attached photo shows the pontoons being lifted and set in place in a manner which recalls the method by which the IDF  was able to cross the Suez Canal for a landing in Egypt towards the end of the 1973 war.

Throughout the three-day operation, the Syrians and Hizballah worked under the cover of more newly-arrived Russian armaments, the MiG-29SMT (Nato-codenamed “Fulcrum),  whose landing in Syria was announced on Wednesday. This twin-engine jet fighter aircraft is a match for the F-18 in service with the US Air Force as well as the Israeli Air force’s F-15, F-16 and F-16 fighters.

The day the MiG-29s arrived in Syria, British Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, Deputy Commander in Chief of the US-led Coalition in Syria, threatened to strike any units of the SAA if they crossed the Euphrates River.

The crossing operation, as well as deepening Russia’s military involvement in Syrian and Hizballah offensives, is a major boost for Iran’s objectives, with grave strategic implications for the US and Israel.

1. For the Trump administration, it trampled the principle Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin established exactly two years ago, i.e., for eastern Syrian across the Euphrates to be assigned to American military control and the west to the Russians.

2.  US satellites and reconnaissance planes watched the Russian army trucking the pontoons east and saw them being thrown over the river for the crossing. Nonetheless, no orders came from the White House or the Pentagon to make good on the coalition’s threat of a strike and to interfere.

3. Established on the east bank of the Euphrates, Syrian and Hizballah troops are in position to go forward for the operation to capture the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Abu Kamal from ISIS. They have moreover opened the way to link up with the Iraqi Population Mobilization Units (PMU), a surrogate of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

4. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that PMU units are already heading for this rendezvous on the Iraqi-Syrian border. This step is tantamount to opening up an Iranian-controlled military corridor between Iraq and Syria by cutting deep into the US-ruled region of eastern Syria.

5.  As recently as Thursday night, Sept. 14, President Donald Trump declared: “We are not going to stand for what they [Iran] are doing “

6.  The US president was not alone in refraining from lifting a finger to stop “what they are doing.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu likewise chose words over deeds. “Israel would not tolerate an Iranian presence on its northern border with Syria,” he reiterated Friday, Sept. 14, on his arrival in New York to address the UN General Assembly and meet Donald Trump.

But already Iran and its pawns were creating an accomplished fact, with massive logistical and military assistance from the Russian army.

It is worth noting in this regard that, in recent weeks, Israel’s generals and colonels have suddenly dropped references in their discourse to Iran and Hizballah as existential threats.

This may be the time to remind them of an unfortunate precedent. In the months leading up to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israel’s leaders brushed aside the Egyptian and Syrian armies as threats to the state’s survival –  only to find defeat at their hands staring the IDF in the face in the early days of that war.
No less dangerous would be a war fought by the Syrian army, Hizballah and Iran, with powerful Russian military support. By establishing a foothold on both banks of the Euphrates River and both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Iran has taken a step towards pursuing its avowed goal of Israel’s destruction.