U.S. envoy to contest Iran activities in Syria
Beirut – Washington will focus on pressuring Iran financially and contesting its activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen where the Persian nation enjoys broad influence, the U.S. envoy to Syria said Wednesday, adding that Tehran should eventually withdraw all Iran-commanded forces from Syria.
Ambassador James Jeffrey told a group of journalists via a telephone conference that Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that President Donald Trump pulled America out of in May had a bad effect on Iran’s behavior that “accelerated its activities.”
Iran enjoys influence in several countries in the region where it backs well-armed militias that are deployed in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Speaking about Iran’s future in Syria, Jeffrey said: “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”
Jeffrey said the Trump administration is now focusing on putting financial pressure on Iran and “secondly contesting more actively Iran’s activities particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”
Washington this week imposed a new list of sanctions against Iran’s vital oil exports, banking and transport industries.
Jeffrey expressed concerns about Russia’s delivery last month to Syria of the sophisticated S-300 air defense systems, weeks after the downing of a Russian plane by Syria forces responding to an Israeli air strike, a friendly fire incident that stoked regional tensions.
“We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” Jeffrey said.
“In the past, Russia has been permissive in consultations with the Israelis about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria,” he said. “We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue.”
Jeffrey said Israel has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles” and drones aimed at and used against Israel.
Israel rarely acknowledges attacks inside Syria but has said it would use military action to prevent weapons transfers to its enemies.
In September, an Israeli military official said the Jewish state has struck over 200 Iranian targets in Syria over the past 18 months. Since the delivery of the S-300 there has been no reports of Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
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