American army vehicles drive north of Manbij city, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria March 9, 2017 © Rodi Said / Reuters
Iran has warned the United States not to make any “foolish” decisions regarding possible military action against Syria.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi advised the White House to think carefully before adopting a more interventionist approach in Syria. The comments from Qassemi come after President Donald Trump ousted Rex Tillerson as the US Secretary of State on Tuesday.
Tillerson was regarded as less of a hawk than many others in the Trump administration when it comes to foreign policy, and, since his departure, some foreign policy experts have speculated that the White House is preparing to take new military action against Syrian government forces.
Trump’s choice to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo is further indication that his foreign policy could be moving in a more hawkish direction. Pompeo has maintained hardline views on Iran, North Korea and Russia.
Pompeo & Haspel: ‘Hardliners that will do as Trump says’
The move comes as Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov warned this week that Washington was preparing to launch airstrikes against Syria using alleged chemical attacks as a pretext.
On Monday, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley warned that the US was willing to take action against Syria if the international community “fails to act.” Haley cited last year’s attack by the US military on Shayrat airbase. Those strikes were ordered in response to accusations of a chemical attack launched by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. The US waited only three days before striking the airbase, despite the fact that there was no conclusive proof that the attack was carried out by Syrian government forces.
Washington has accused Damascus and Moscow of using excessive force in eastern Ghouta, a region which has been controlled by terrorist groups for years. Russia has consistently claimed that Western powers are using the situation in the Damascus suburbs as a pretext to put pressure on Moscow, and has insisted that its anti-terrorism operations there have not violated the ceasefire agreement.
Damascus has denied the use of chemical weapons, insisting that it has no reason to use such weapons, given that its forces are maintaining the upper hand against rebel and terrorist groups.
Haley also accused Russia of failing to observe a 30-day ceasefire in the war-torn country and said Moscow inserted an “anti-terrorism loophole” into the agreement. She said a new US-sponsored ceasefire resolution would not include an anti-terrorism loophole, but she did not specify how Washington plans to prevent terrorist groups from breaking the ceasefire.
In response to Haley’s comments, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the US was trying to cover up its own failure to properly control anti-government militant groups, with which they have close contact.
Lavrov said that the US plans to remain in Syria for a long time “if not forever,” by using chemical weapons provocations as a pretext for its continued presence. The ultimate goal, he said, was to contribute to the collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Tehran has defended its own role in Syria. Unlike the US-led coalition, Iran’s presence is due to an official request by Damascus, Qassemi said. He stressed that Iran’s priority is to see peace return to Syria “through diplomacy” rather than by further destabilizing military action.
Moscow has warned that it will respond if Washington makes any more attacks on Syrian forces or puts its own Russian servicemen at risk.
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