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U.S. Forces Leaving Syria While There Is No Word On Any Iran Withdrawal

A U.S. army vehicle supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is seen in Hajin, in the Deir Ezzor province, December 15, 2018
A U.S. army vehicle supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is seen in Hajin, in the Deir Ezzor province, December 15, 2018

While the United States is planning to "withdraw all of its troops from Syria," Israel's Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has said that Tel Aviv is on the verge of a great victory in Syria in the campaign against Iran's influence.

The United States said on Wednesday it has begun withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria while President Donald Trump tweeted that Islamic State group has been defeated. This is total withdrawal of all 2,000 troops.

Senior U.S. politicians, including Republicans and some allies were surprised by the decision and expressed doubt about the official reason for the decision that IS is defeated.

CNN reported on December 20 that the withdrawal can be a deal Trump has made with Turkish president Recep Erdogan. But at this point it is too soon to make a definitive judgement. Would such a deal also involve the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria?

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said at the Globes Business Conference in Jerusalem that Israel is the only country in the world whose army is "directly at war with Iran." He added that while the U.S. is targeting Iran's economy, "Israel strikes Iran in Syria." He vowed that Israel will force Iran out of Syria.

However, Netanyahu added that Israel is committed to the campaign against the West's nuclear deal with Iran, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and expressed his satisfaction over the re-instating of US sanctions against Tehran.

Netanyahu criticized the Obama administration for the nuclear deal which he said "allowed Iran to resume unlimited enrichment in ten years, and gave it billions of dollars to build its empire," alluding to Tehran's regional ambitions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

He said he has talked with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the phone, but did not elaborate on the subject of his conversations.

In the meantime opposition with US withdrawal from Syria has been taking shape in Washington on Wednesday. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham quoted a tweet by Trump in which he had said, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," and reacted that " Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake."

In another tweet later on Wednesday, Senator Graham said that " There will be much resentment and feeling of abandonment that will be directed toward American personnel. The confusion surrounding our Syria policy is making life much more difficult and dangerous for Americans in the region."

He also retweeted a tweet by his communications director Kevin Bishop who said US withdrawal from Syria will empower Iran, Assad and Russia: "“While American patience in confronting radical Islam may wane, the radical Islamists’ passion to kill Americans and our allies never wavers. “ — @LindseyGrahamSC on the regenesis of ISIS, impact on the Kurds, and empowerment of Iran, Assad, and Russia with a US withdrawal."

Meanwhile Atlantic Council assistant director David Wemer wrote in an article on the Atlantaic Council website that "On December 17 here at the Atlantic Council, US special representative for Syria James Jeffrey called again for the ouster of Iranian forces, thus suggesting that they have not yet left. But not forty-eight hours later we learn that US forces are indeed preparing for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal from Syria, while reminding that national security adviser John Bolton had said in September that “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,", committing that US forces would stay in Syria as long as Iranian forces were in the country.

Netanyahu may have attempted to use his prior information about the US troops' withdrawal from Syria to claim an early victory.

His recent remarks about "Israeli agents regular visits to Iran" and his threat that "Israel might directly attack Iran" may have disclosed part of Tel Aviv's hitherto secret war against Iran.

On Tuesday, IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency quoted Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi as having said that "Israel has been playing a part in recent counter-revolutionary moves in Iran."