London, 29 Sep - Officials from the Trump administration have been saying for a long time that Iran is a huge issue when it comes to its Syria policy. They have said that it is essential that Iran is stopped from expanding its power, especially as the Islamic State falls.
Syrians agree with this, as do other nations such as Israel and Jordan.
However, questions are now being asked about whether it is too late to act on any intentions.
On Monday, Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster spoke at the Institute for the Study of War and it became quite clear that the policy and the rhetoric were not exactly working together.
McMaster pointed out the Trump administration really wants to prevent Iran and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, from taking a strategic advantage while the Islamic State is being defeated in Syria. He was not able to elaborate on how this would happen, but he reiterated that a strategy is currently being implemented.
He added that Iran’s influence in the region, not just in Syria, is being addressed.
The Assad regime in Syria, along with Russia and Iran, is getting further into the south-eastern area of the country near strategic Deir al-Zour city. McMaster said that although this is good in the short-term because it is helpful in the push against the Islamic State, it could be problematic in the long-term because it could “accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome”.
McMaster said that the US would have leverage in the country with large amounts of reconstruction funds that would not be allocated to areas held by Assad or Iran.
Officials are saying that it is not going to be an easy task evicting Iran from Syria, but they must remain focused on ensuring that Iran does not achieve the Shiite crescent of power that it is seeking.
Right now, military operations between US-backed forces and Iranian-backed forces are being deconflicted. However, the biggest issue is that when the Iranian forces (along with Assad’s regime) gain territory, there is no strategy in place to get it back.
This is partly because the previous administration, the Obama administration, did not boost local forces for several years.
In recent months, Iran’s influence has been spreading further across the country. Even though there was talk about increasing troops near Deir al-Zour to stop Iran from advancing, nothing happened.
Despite this, many officials in the Trump administration insist that reducing Iran’s presence in Syria is a high priority. Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said last week that the US has made great progress in Syria. “I think the efforts in Syria have been remarkable. And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.”
Whatever the next move it, it would perhaps be wise for the US to help those Syrians that are not under Iran and Assad’s rule to build up their civil society and defence.