Syrian Official Rejects U.S. Demand for Iranian Withdrawal

Syria has dismissed American calls for the withdrawal of Iranian troops and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from the war-torn country, The Washington Post reports.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a list of demands this week for a new nuclear deal with Iran, including the pullout of its forces from Syria, where they have provided crucial support to President Bashar Assad’s government. Russia is also a key ally of Assad, and has been waging an air campaign in Syria since 2015.

On May 8, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and Treasury immediately began to reimpose all sanctions against Tehran. The JCPOA — signed by Iran, the P5+1 and the European Union in 2015 — requires that Tehran allow inspections to ensure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told Russia’s Sputnik news agency “this topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria.”

“This topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria. We cannot let anyone even raise this issue. Those who ask for something like that — and this is definitely not our Russian friends — are considering the possibility of intervention in all parts of Syria, including the support of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the region,” Mikdad said.

According to the Syrian diplomat, Damascus “highly appreciates” the help of friendly forces from Russia and advisers from Iran and Hezbollah in the struggle against terrorists. The statements by the United States about its intention to withdraw troops from Syria and replace them with Arab forces are aimed at drawing the Arab countries in direct conflict with Damascus, Mikdad said.

“The main goal of such statements is to pump the money out of the Arab countries. This will force them to pay more to the US treasury, which may be empty. As well as drawing the Arab states in direct conflict, as far as I can guess — with the Syrian government, and this is a dangerous situation,” Mikdad said.

According to Mikdad, Washington will ultimately not withdraw its troops. The United States continues its support for terrorists in Syria by financing and supplying them with arms, Faisal Mekdad said.

“I believe that the oxygen for terrorist groups comes from the United States,” Mekdad said.

The Syrian minister noted that Damascus had heard “many times since the start of the crisis in 2011” the US statements on the reduction or termination of its support to the opposition in Syria.

“Meanwhile, [militant] groups are being provided with additional funding and arms,” Mekdad stressed.

After Russia said that foreign troops should leave Syria when the war ends, Tehran responded by saying no one can force Iran to do anything, Radio Farda adds. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 17 after a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad:

“We presume that, in connection with the significant victories and success of the Syrian Army in the fight against terrorism, with the onset of a more active part, 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.”

A day later, Alexander Lavrentiev, Putin’s envoy for Syria, left no doubt that Putin’s comment was aimed at the United States, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah.

“As long as it is necessary, the risk of terrorism in Syria exists, and the Syrian government wants Iran to continue its support, we will remain in Syria. No one can force Iran to do anything. Iran is an independent country and determines its policies in the region and the world based on its national interests,” Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said on May 21.

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has slammed the address made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the world cannot accept that Washington makes unilateral decisions for all nations.