The civil war in Syria has been a bloody affair and if the Iranian government gets its wish, the bloodshed will spread beyond the Syrian borders. With the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria, Iran wants a military base in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan.
The move would be to weaken US influence in the region, eventually forcing the United States out and then opening up another avenue which to attack Israel and the Jordanians, one of the US’ closest allies in the region.
“A permanent Iranian military base in Syria, potentially near the border with Israel or Jordan, would increase Iran’s operational capacity to inflict serious damage against two of our closest allies in the region,” Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
That warning points to the strategic significance of the Syrian civil war, beyond the importance of defeating the Islamic State. Trump’s team has authorized an intense barrage of airstrikes on ISIS, while opening the door to cooperation with Russia; a senior State Department official recently attended a peace talks summit between Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition forces that was led by the Russians. But Russia is propping up Assad in partnership with Iran, which means the defeat of ISIS could inaugurate a new phase of regional rivalry.
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.”
Nothing good can come from the Iranians having a permanent military presence in Syria. Attacks against Israel and Jordan would soon follow and the region can ill-afford that bloodshed to escalate.
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