Pull your forces out of Syria, US envoy tells Tehran

A woman visits the grave of an SDF fighter, killed in a Daesh attack near Deir Ezzor, Syria, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Pull your forces out of Syria, US envoy tells Tehran

  • Tehran funds and arms militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
  • The US is “contesting more actively Iran’s activities”, the envoy said.

BEIRUT: Tehran must withdraw all the forces it commands in Syria, and the US will focus on pressuring Iran financially and resisting its meddling in the region, the US envoy to Syria said on Wednesday.

The 2015 nuclear deal had a malign effect on Iran’s behavior that “accelerated its activities,” ambassador James Jeffrey said.

Tehran funds and arms militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. “Iranians are part of the problem, not part of the solution,” the envoy said.

He said the Trump administration was now focusing on putting financial pressure on Tehran and “contesting more actively Iran’s activities, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”

Washington this week reimposed sanctions against Iran’s vital oil-export, banking and transport industries.

Recent retreats by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting Daesh in a pocket of eastern Syria near the Iraq border were “a tactical reverse,” Jeffrey said. “It’s nothing serious. The Daesh forces there basically are still surrounded and reinforcements are coming in.”

Daesh launched several counteroffensives in recent weeks against the SDF, who have been trying to recapture the area since early September. 

“One reason for the reverse there was unusually bad and sustained weather that limited our use of air power, which is very important for our fight against Daesh,” Jeffrey said.

“As the weather changes and as additional troops are introduced, I expect the situation will change and we’ll see advances against Daesh.”

Jeffrey said that when American officials say US troops will stay in Syria, “we stay until the enduring defeat of Daesh,” with the aim of establishing the conditions so that local forces, local populations and local governments can deal with Daesh as a terrorist or insurgent movement.

“We’re not there yet,” he added.


Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

Updated 15 November 2018
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Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

BEIRUT: Bank deposits in Lebanon have risen by 4 percent on the year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday, and he maintained his economic growth outlook for 2018 at 2 percent.

In July Salameh had said he expected bank deposits to grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

In October the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halved their growth outlook to one percent for Lebanon, where public debt is about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

“Lebanese banks have succeeded in maintaining foreign exchange inflows into their sector supported by (the central bank),” Salmeh said in a televised speech at a Beirut economic conference.

With growth low and traditional sources of foreign exchange — tourism, real estate and foreign investment — undermined by years of regional tension, Lebanon increasingly relies on dollars expatriate Lebanese deposit in local banks.

The banks buy government debt, which finances the country’s eye-watering public debt and twin deficits.

The central bank also brings in dollars through complex financial operations with local banks to boost foreign currency reserves needed to defend the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar.

However, deposits have been growing at a slower rate since war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, and deposit growth rates are closely watched.