Iran is looking to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and is eyeing a potential base near the Syrian border with Israel or Jordan, two U.S. lawmakers said.
“A permanent Iranian military base in Syria … would increase Iran’s operational capacity to inflict serious damage against two of our closest allies in the region,” Rep. Peter Roskam, Illinois Republican, and Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The lawmakers’ warning comes as a Senate panel on May 25 approved new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s support for international terrorism and its ballistic missile program, the first move to punish Teheran since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear accord went into effect.
With Russia is propping up Assad in partnership with Iran, the defeat of ISIS could lead to a new phase of regional rivalry, lawmakers said.
“The day after Raqqa falls is going to be the moment that Iran moves to try to oust the United States from the region,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, told the Washington Examiner in February.
Roskam and Deutch have a similar concern. “Iran is actively working to establish a permanent military presence in Syria,” they wrote Tillerson. “The Islamic Republic seeks to solidify its access to the Mediterranean Sea by building a permanent seaport and constructing numerous military installations throughout the country. A permanent Iranian military presence in Syria would greatly harm U.S. interests in the region and decrease the likelihood of reaching a political agreement to end the Syrian civil war.”
The lawmakers want Tillerson to try to weaken Iran by cracking down on the regime’s commercial aviation industry, which is often used to smuggle weapons to Assad. “It is imperative to develop and implement policies to prevent a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria,” Roskam and Deutch wrote.
Full article: U.S. lawmakers say Iran eyes military base near Syria-Israel border (World Tribune)