WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - The US issued a strong condemnation of Iranian activities in Syria, amid continued tensions over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta over the weekend.
“We’re absolutely concerned about Iran’s presence or meddling” in Syria, whether it be directly or through proxies, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert affirmed on Tuesday, as she responded to a question from Kurdistan 24.
“Iran supports Hizbollah,” which the US has long designated a terrorist organization, and “Iran has sent not only fighters, but also equipment into Syria,” she explained.
Nauert did not provide details about the fighters Iran has sent to Syria, but Tehran is known to recruit Shiites from around the world, particularly from Afghanistan, where poverty is a big motive in inducing young men to join the pro-Syrian forces. There are also a significant number of Iraqi Shiites in Syria, fighting on behalf of the regime.
Nauert tied Tehran’s activities in Syria to the atrocities of the government in Damascus.
The Iranians have “bolstered the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” enabling it “to commit attacks against innocent civilians,” she said. Not only in Eastern Ghouta, where Syria launched a chemical weapons attack on Saturday, “but around the country as well.”
US President Donald Trump has warned that Assad and his main backers, Russia and Iran, will pay a “big price,” but Nauert declined to comment on the possibility that Iranian targets in Syria might be included in any punitive US strikes.
Even more than the US, Israel is concerned about Iran’s growing presence in Syria.
On Sunday night, Israeli jets attacked Iranian targets at Syria’s T-4 military base, which lies some 200 kilometers northeast of Damascus, between Homs and Palmyra,
According to Tehran’s Tasnim news agency, the Israeli strike killed seven Iranian military personnel, while other Iranian media reported that a member of the Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, which operates Iran’s drones, was among the casualties.
Israel planes also struck the T-4 base in February, after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace. Tehran uses the airbase, Syria’s largest, as a military command center, Israeli officials say.
Not only is Syria a close ally of Moscow, but Russian troops are also stationed at T-4. The Israeli attack prompted Russian criticism, with Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov criticizing it as a “dangerous development.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday. There, he denounced the Israeli attack as “a crime” and threatened that it “will not remain without a response.”
Israeli forces are on high alert along the country’s northern border to guard against any revenge attacks from Iran or Hizbollah.