WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Nearly 50 US Congressmen have written Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, expressing their concerns about the military presence Iran has established in Syria in the course of the country’s protracted civil war.
The Congressmen asked Tillerson to develop a strategy that would address the question of “how the United States plans to prevent Iran from gaining a permanent foothold on Israel and Jordan’s doorstep, and how to block Iranian arms exports to Hezbollah.”
“Iran is providing substantial amounts of support to the Syrian Regime,” the lawmakers noted, “including funds, weapons, and personnel from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.”
“A permanent Iranian presence in Syria would connect Lebanon-based Hezbollah to Iran via Iraq and Syria,” the Congressmen warned.
“This would give Iran the ability to project power from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean sea,” the bipartisan group of 43 representatives affirmed.
Current US policy, however, is based on the premise that Iraq—under Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi—will contain Iran and block Tehran’s efforts to create a land-bridge to the Mediterranean.
Thus, the US assumed a neutral stance as heavily-armed Iraqi forces, including pro-Iranian Shia militias, attacked Kurdish forces in Kirkuk last month.
The Trump administration took that position, although the military operation was organized by the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and Iran “provided decisive military support to compel” a Kurdish surrender, as the highly regarded Institute for the Study of War concluded in a Nov. 9 report.
The Congressmen would seem, at least implicitly, to disagree with the administration’s policy on Iraq, as well as Syria. After all, there would be no danger of an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean if Iraq were, truly, an effective obstacle to Iran.
The lawmakers recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, and their letter reflects the concerns of US allies in the region.
“Should Iran be allowed to maintain a permanent military presence in Syria, it would pose a significant threat to Israel, Jordan, and United States interests,” the Congressmen cautioned.
Their letter notes, “Iran is estimated to have deployed about 1,300-1,800 IRGC soldiers and even some regular army special forces personnel to Syria.”
“Iran is also directing Hezbollah and other non-Syrian Shia militias,” including Iraqis, to fight on behalf of the regime in Damascus, the letter to Tillerson adds.
It also notes that Hezbollah’s current stockpile of 150,000 rockets and missiles “is larger than that of most states,” and it “continues to receive weapons and training from a variety of sources, including Iran and Russia.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of the authors of the letter, which was signed by “a contingent of foreign policy leaders in the House,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.
The signatories include Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (California) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Maryland.)
A second report by the Institute for the Study of War, published on Wednesday, buttresses the lawmakers’ concerns.
It concludes that current US policy “fails to constrain Iran,” which “continues to consolidate its presence along the Golan Heights through a network of proxy forces while retaining significant positions in Southern Syria.”
Editing by Nadia Riva