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U.S. Congressmen Voice Concern To Tillerson On Iran's Role In Syria

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Defense Secretary James Mattis.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

A large bi-partisan group of U.S. lawmakers have written to the Trump administration voicing their concern about Iran’s growing influence in Syria.

Forty-three members of Congress who signed a letter, are also asking the administration to tell Congress how it is planning to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria.

The lawmakers, who visited the region recently, say in their letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Israel is concerned “about Iranian operations in Syria, particularly since the signing of a ceasefire last July”.

They voice concern that in addition to substantial assistance Iran is providing the Syrian regime, it has deployed regular army troops to Syria, “which would mark a significant departure from a historical policy of keeping regular army forces within Iran’s borders.”

Iran is also directing Hezbollah and other Shiite militias in Syria. The lawmakers point out that these forces have gained experience and closely coordinate with the Syrian army and the Russian air force.

“Should Iran be allowed to maintain a permanent military presence in Syria, it would pose a significant threat to Israel, Jordan and United States interests”, says the letter., adding, “Any agreement or policy that allows Iran to station forces on or near Israel and Jordan’s border does not serve US interests”.

Israel has not been happy with deals the Trump administration has been making with Russia regarding Syria. Israel insists that Iranian directed forces should stay at least 30 miles from Israel’s borders, but Russia rejects that. It is not clear what the U.S. position is on the matter.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have warned that permanent Iranian bases in Syria will not be tolerated and Israel will act to protect itself.

The Washington Free Beacon says that the letter comes at a time when many in Congress have become concerned about what they see is the Trump administration’s failure to effectively prevent Iran’s growing military presence in the Middle east, especially in Syria.