Sec­re­tary of state calls on Tehran to with with­draw its forces from Syria

Iran: We are here at the in­vi­ta­tion of the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment, the US should leave

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TOVAH LAZAROFF

Iran must re­move its mil­i­tary from Syria, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wed­nes­day while vis­it­ing Jor­dan as part of a week­long re­gional trip to dis­cuss threats to the sta­bil­ity of the Mid­dle East.

“We think Iran needs to with­draw its mil­i­tary, its mili­tia from Syria, and al­low the hope for a peace process to take hold in Geneva,” Tillerson said.

The Is­lamic Repub­lic im­me­di­ately shot back that it was the US that had to leave the Syr­ian the­ater.

Just one day be­fore his ar­rival on Sun­day, Is­rael shot down an Ira­nian made drone that was launched into its airspace from Syria.

Is­rael at­tacked the launch site in Syria, and an Is­rael Air Force F-16 jet was shot down. Its two crew mem­bers ejected in Is­rael.

“We are quite con­cerned about the re­cent in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Is­rael and Ira­nian as­sets in­side of Syria, and I think this again il­lus­trates why Iran’s pres­ence in Syria is only desta­bi­liz­ing to the re­gion,” Tillerson said.

Ali Ak­bar Ve­lay­ati, a top aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said in re­sponse, “Iran’s mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syria was based on in­vi­ta­tion of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment.

“Those should leave Syria who are there with­out the per­mis­sion of the Syr­ian le­gal gov­ern­ment,” Ve­lay­ati was quoted as say­ing by ISNA.

Tillerson, who heads to Beirut on Thurs­day, told re­porters that Iran plays a desta­bi­liz­ing role in Le­banon as well.

“I will be go­ing to Beirut to­mor­row to meet with lead­ers in Beirut about Le­banon’s fu­ture. We sup­port a free, demo­cratic Le­banon free of in­flu­ence of oth­ers, and we know that Le­banese Hezbol­lah is in­flu­enced by Iran. This is in­flu­ence that we think is un­help­ful in Le­banon’s long-term fu­ture,” Tillerson said.

In New York, US Am­bas­sador to the UN Nikki Ha­ley at­tacked Iran, and de­fended Is­rael, dur­ing a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­bate on Syria.

“Iran was once again do­ing what it does – risk­ing con­flict, and test­ing the will of its neigh­bors and op­po­nents to re­sist its ag­gres­sion. Is­rael rightly took ac­tion to de­fend it­self. The United States will al­ways stand by our ally when con­fronted with provo­ca­tions from Iran, Hezbol­lah or the As­sad regime,” Ha­ley said.

Reuters con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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