by Oleg Burunov
In October 2019, President Donald Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing its forces from Syria, but eventually backtracked, saying that a “small” American contingent would stay behind to allegedly “keep” the Syrian oil from being seized by Daesh*.
Iran’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Majid Takht-Ravanchi has called for the immediate and full-fledged withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
“All foreign forces whose presence is not permitted by the Syrian government must leave Syria”, the diplomat told a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, in an apparent nod to the US.
He questioned American forces’ current role in Syria, insisting that instead of fighting terrorism, they “continue supporting UN-designated terrorist groups such as al-Nusra Front* as well as looting the oil and wealth of the Syrian people”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier noted that Tehran would work to strengthen economic cooperation with Syria amid Washington’s restrictive measures under the US Caesar Act, which stipulates sanctioning almost all Syrian economic and trade activities, as well as government officials.
He was echoed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who voiced hope in May that the “Americans won’t stay in Syria and will be [finally] expelled”.
Senior US Official Boasts About Lying to Trump to Keep US Troops in Syria
Ambassador Takht-Ravanchi’s statement comes a few weeks after Jim Jeffrey, outgoing US special representative for Syria and special presidential envoy for the western coalition against Daesh, told the news outlet Defence One that he and members of his staff deliberately covered up the true size of the US military footprint in Syria from President Donald Trump.
“What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal”, Jeffrey said, referring to Trump’s repeated orders in late 2018 and then again in 2019 to bring US troops home.
“When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story”, the US envoy added.
He argued that the actual number of US troops in Syria is “a lot more” than the estimated 200-400 that POTUS agreed to leave behind in 2019 to “secure” the country’s oil fields and prevent them from falling into the hands of the Syrian government or terrorists.
American troops, jointly with the Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), maintain control over a part of northeastern Syria as the US-led coalition of more than 60 nations has been carrying out airstrikes and other operations against terrorists in Syria since September 2014.
The coalition operates in Syria without the approval of the Assad government or any UN Security Council authorisation. Damascus, in turn, sees the US presence on Syrian soil as a violation of national sovereignty and an attempt to seize the country’s natural resources.