ERBIL, Kurdistan Region, December 06, 2017 – The United States has announced that they plan to maintain a military presence in Syria post-ISIS where top US officials estimate 80 percent of regime forces are sourced by ever-expanding Iran.
“The United States will sustain a 'conditions-based' military presence in Syria to combat the threat of a terrorist-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and to stabilize liberated areas,” Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon told AFP on Tuesday, not revealing when or if the United States will pull its troops.
The announcement is likely to rile Iran, a close ally with Syria which has increasingly supported President Bashar al-Assad in the almost seven-year-long civil war.
Iran contributes approximately $6 billion annually to the Assad regime, according to UN statements.
“About 80 percent of Assad’s fighters are Iranian proxies in Syria to establish a land bridge over into the Mediterranean,” said US National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.
McMaster said that it’s important that the United States addresses Iran’s “growing capability, their use of militias, proxies and terrorist organizations” not only in Syria but in other Middle Eastern nations.
McMaster also warned that Iran is seeking to “fill the void in Iraq and Syria” referring to them as “weak states” which Iran can take advantage of.
Iran has said it “is determined to stay beside its Syrian brothers in the post-war era” to help Damascus combat terrorism, Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami emphasized to his Syrian counterpart Fahd Jassem al-Freij in November.
Freij expressed Iran has backed the Syrian government in the defense of its sovereignty.
Senior Advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, while visiting Lebanon early November, said that recent gains in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq against extremist groups is a victory for the “resistance front,” a term Iran and its allies use for an alliance of state and non-state actors who oppose the United States and Israel in the Middle East.
He added the United States is now trying to apply “high pressure” in Syria with the aim of breaking the Iranian-led front.
“The United States, stationed east of the Euphrates River, is after dividing Syria. But what is certain is that the United States will fail in this regard…” Velayati said.
Some in the West worry that Tehran aims to build a so-called Shiite Crescent connecting Iran with Lebanon via Iraq and Syria.