Envoy: US working to consult allies on Syria

US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Franklin Jeffrey attends a panel discussion during the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
0

Envoy: US working to consult allies on Syria

  • Kurdish fighters have spearheaded the fight against Daesh terrorists, who were expected to lose their final stretch of land in coming days. However, neighboring Turkey views them as “terrorists”

MUNICH: The US envoy for Syria said his country’s withdrawal from Syria will not be “abrupt” and that Washington is working to ensure allies don’t feel “under-consulted.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria angered some allies, confounded US military officials and prompted Jim Mattis to resign as defense secretary.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, US envoy James Jeffrey said the Trump administration has told allies “continuously since mid-December that ... this is not going to be an abrupt or a rapid withdrawal. It’s going to be an orderly, step-by-step withdrawal.”
Jeffrey added: “We are consulting very carefully and very closely with them. If they felt that they weren’t consulted enough initially, we are doing our very, very best night and day, believe me, to ensure that they don’t feel under-consulted right now.”
Meanwhile, Russia said Syria’s Kurds should start a dialogue with President Bashar Assad as their military allies the US are readying to pullout.
“We support this dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, whose country is a key backer of the Assad regime.
Kurdish fighters have spearheaded the fight against Daesh terrorists, who were expected to lose their final stretch of land in coming days. However, neighboring Turkey views them as “terrorists.”
The presence of American troops in areas held by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has so far acted as a shield against any Turkish offensive. But Trump in December shocked Washington’s allies by announcing a full withdrawal soon of all 2,000 US troops from Syria.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar charged again on Sunday, at the Munich Security Conference, that the Kurdish YPG, a major part of the SDF, are a “terrorist group.”
“Our main concern before and after the withdrawal of the Americans is the safety and security of our border and our people,” he said.
Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies have led two previous offensives inside Syria, most recently seizing the northwestern enclave of Afrin from the Kurds last year.
Russia’s Vershinin addressed the same issue at the conference, asking “what will happen after the US withdraws from Syria?
“If there are no foreign troops on the ground of Syria’s northeastern part, I think that the best solution would be to start up a dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus.”
“The Kurds are a part of the population of Syria ... We know about the problems between Damascus and the Kurds but I think there is a solution through dialogue.”
The Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria’s eight-year civil war, instead building their own institutions in a third of the country under their control.
Trump has attempted to ease tensions about their fate by speaking of a 30-km “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country would establish the “security zone” itself if it took too long to implement.
James Franklin Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement, said that the US “want to take care of the security concerns of our Turkish NATO allies vis-a-vis in particular the SDF, and we are very concerned that the SDF, with whom we fought, is not mistreated.”
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said it was “clear the Americans are looking at it from one angle, and the Turks are looking at it from a different angle.”


Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

Updated 23 May 2019
0

Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

  • The commander said they will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for their enemies
  • Tensions between Iran and US escalated after Trump restored sanctions

GENEVA: The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills,” a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.
Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism.”
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!“
Trump restored US sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”
Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”
He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.
“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.
In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.