USA will boot out every Iranian from Syria, declares Mike Pompeo

Leroy Wright
January 11, 2019

The US will work with allies to "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

It has vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts what US officials describe as its "malign activities" throughout the Mideast and elsewhere, including support for rebels in Yemen, anti-Israel groups, and Syrian President Bashar Assad. "We're going to withdraw our 2,000 soldiers from Syria-but the mission, the objective for which we have been involved for the 24 months in the administration, remains in full".

On Jan. 6, Sen.

When Trump first announced the pullout of 2,000 ground troops on December 19, Ankara was a lonely voice among North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies welcoming the decision.

But what has yet to provoke an equal level of concern is the likely impact of the pullout for Syria's embattled Christian community, whose numbers have dwindled amid seven years of civil war.

A spokesman for the secretary said the two men discussed "the USA commitment to Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity", as well as the new Iraqi government's "efforts to deliver stability, security and prosperity to all Iraqis".

"Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he has been very, very clear that he wants to withdraw from Syria".

"Trump has now told our president twice that they will withdraw", Cavusoglu said. He insisted USA troops would only be withdrawn after the Islamic State was fully defeated and after Turkey committed to not attacking Kurdish forces that are fighting the Islamic State alongside US troops. Ankara still expects Trump to stick to his word, he said, but acknowledged, "There are those in the field who are working to prevent the withdrawal", counting Bolton among those opposed to it.

His speech emphasized America as a force for good in the region.

"It's a speech shocking for its use of domestic politics, for kind of attacking a prior president in an global setting and for going to a long-time ally and questioning some of the foundations of the relationship with the ally", said Heather Hurlburt, an analyst with the New America, a nonpartisan think tank.

Most American forces were withdrawn from Iraq in 2011, after years of political squabbling following the US invasion in 2003.

Turkish military forces supporting Syrian rebels launched incursions into northern Syria against IS in August 2016 and against the YPG in January 2018. Salih told the secretary that Baghdad "will need the support of (U.S. troops)", and expressed his "gratitude to the USA for its support, over the years".

He then took another swipe at the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - from which the US withdrew previous year. Either we will never withdraw from "northeastern Syria", or we will stand by and watch our anti-ISIS allies get massacred as Turkey reneges on any security pledge they make.

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"The Trump administration has moved quickly to rebuild links amongst our old friends and nurture new partnerships", added Pompeo.

Turkey has repeatedly questioned Washington's deployment of heavy weapons in Syria despite the defeat of Daesh in much of the Arab country.

Bolton quickly departed for the US on Tuesday after Erdogan refused to meet with him and later denounced him in a speech to parliament. Erdogan immediately vowed to begin an assault on the Kurds, a pledge that raised the stakes for the policy debate that continued into 2019. He said that no offensive action would be taken in Syria while USA forces remained but that Turkey was fully within its rights to attack the Kurdish "terrorists".

Seven American minors known to have lived in jihadi-controlled territory have returned to the U.S., Hughes said.

"It's the kind of initiative President Trump asks all nations to take on for the protection of their people", Pompeo said in a joint press conference alongside Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister. In a statement released December 25, Ishak also noted that Christians in this part of the country had "freely celebrated Christmas".

It is yet unclear whether the US withdrawal will happen, right now it appears that it has been slowed, possibly to a standstill.

National security adviser John Bolton, speaking in Israel on Sunday, said the administration would delay the withdrawal until Turkey assures the safety of Kurdish fighters and ISIS is defeated.

Meanwhile, it is hard to independently verify Ishak's official numbers for Christians in SDF-held territory, given that tens of thousands of Syrian Christians have been displaced internally or forced into exile during the civil war.

Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said that Pompeo's speech failed to resonate with the Arab audience.

"Previously, Christians made up 5.2% of Syria's population of 22 million", said Koopman.

"So today what did we learn from all of this?"

At the same time, Koopman emphasized that his agency "did not have an official position" on the US troop drawdown.

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