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

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.

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”