US troops in Syria to add fuel to fire in region: Iran’s Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says any bid by the US to dispatch ground troops to Syria to allegedly fight Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the country would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East and adversely impact the security of the whole world.
“We cannot commit to solutions that are part of the problem. I believe that the presence of foreign troops in Arab territory is a recipe for those extremists to rally behind and gain new fighters from disenfranchised youth,” Zarif said in an interview with CNN on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday.
A US military official recently suggested that the White House may authorize sending combat troops to Syria.
“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” CNN reported on Wednesday night, citing the official.
During the presidential campaign, US President Donald Trump had openly supported deploying a large contingent of US troops to Syria.
“We really have no choice, we have to knock out ISIS (Daesh Takfiris),” Trump said in March. “I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000-30,000.”
The US has already sent several hundred of its special operations forces to Syria. However, their operations have been limited to what the Pentagon describes as training and assisting Kurdish fighters in their battle against Daesh and other terrorist groups.
Zarif added that a nationwide ceasefire in Syria was largely working, adding that the US “occupation” of Iraq is to blame for the creation of Daesh terrorist group.
The nationwide ceasefire, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran in December 2016, is the extended version of an earlier truce that ended years of fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo and put the strategic city back under Damascus control.
The Iranian foreign minister said Trump himself has accused former President Barack Obama of creating Daesh terrorist group and criticized Washington’s policy of arming so-called opposition groups in Syria.
In an interview in August 2016, trump reaffirmed his assertion that Obama had founded Daesh.
“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS (Daesh),” Trump said. “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”
Further touching upon the foreign-backed crisis in Syria, Zarif said, “The same people who armed Daesh, armed the terrorist groups, were the same people who armed [Iraq’s executed dictator] Saddam Hussein, were the same people who created and armed al-Qaeda.”
“We should not continue to repeat history and then blame people who were on the right side,” he pointed out.
Iran has been offering military advisory support to the Syrian military, which has been battling foreign-backed militancy since 2011.
‘JCPOA will stay in place’
Elsewhere, the top Iranian diplomat also said the landmark nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the Islamic Republic and six world powers in 2015 would stay in place, despite claims to the contrary from members of the Trump administration.
There was an international consensus not to let the nuclear agreement unravel, he added.
“I believe everybody, including experts in the United States, know this was the best deal possible deal for all concerned, not just Iran but the US too,” Zarif said.
He added, “It was a triumph of diplomacy over coercion, because coercion doesn’t work anymore.”
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China plus Germany – started implementing the JCPOA on January 16, 2016.
The deal, which was later enshrined in a legally-binding United Nations Security Council resolution, rolled back nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, which, in turn, put limits on its nuclear program.
US sanctions won’t work with Iran
The Iranian minister pointed to the recent US bans imposed on Iran, the first by the US government since President Trump took office on January 20, and said sanctions would never work with the Islamic Republic.
“Everybody [in] the past who has tested Iran knows we don’t respond well to threats. We respond well to mutual respect and mutual interests,” the Iranian foreign minister added.
He noted that all efforts by the Obama administration to use economic sanctions to curtail Iran’s peaceful nuclear program eventually failed.
“The reason Obama came to the negotiating table was because sanctions did not work,” Zarif said.
The US Treasury Department said on February 3 that Washington had imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities as part of bids to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
Iran slammed as illegal the new US sanctions over Tehran’s defensive missile program and spiritual support for Yemen’s Houthi fighters, saying that the Islamic Republic will deliver a “proportionate and reciprocal” response to the move.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran with the backing of the wise participation and support of the great Iranian nation, will respond proportionately and reciprocally to any move that targets the interests of the Iranian people,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Trump travel ban insult to entire nation
In response to a question about Trump’s proposed, but currently stalled, travel ban on seven mainly Muslim countries, including Iran, Zarif said the decision “was an affront to the entire nation.”
“You cannot find any Iranian who has committed a single act of terror against Americans, in any of these atrocities that have taken place,” he said.
He added, “Iran has always condemned every single terrorist incident in the United States since 9/11.”
Zarif said Iranians were among the most successful immigrants to the US.
“They (US officials) don’t understand in a globalized world you cannot contain threats to one locality. Syria is now a training ground for terrorists creating havoc everywhere,” the top Iranian diplomat stated.
In a move which sparked widespread censure, the US president signed a sweeping executive order on January 27 to bar the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and imposed a 120-day halt on all refugee resettlement programs.
Iran summoned Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Giulio Haas on January 29 to protest against the US president’s discriminatory decision to restrict entry into the country.
The director general for the Americas at Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Mohammad Keshavarz-Zadeh, handed over an official letter of protest to the Swiss envoy, who represents the US interests in Tehran and told him that Trump has issued the order under “fictitious, discriminatory and unacceptable” pretexts and the order runs counter to human rights conventions and a legal and consular treaty signed between Tehran and Washington in August 15, 1955.
US District Judge James Robart in Seattle, Washington, suspended the order nationwide on February 4 after his state challenged its legality. A three-judge panel in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Robart’s ruling.