Flashpoint / Global 31 May 2020 Middle Euphrates River Valley, Syria Share Facebook Twitter Email Print Back To Map I. Why it Matters With the campaign against ISIS in Syria seemingly drawing to a close, the Euphrates marks a rough dividing line between forces backed by Iran and the U.S. that compete over territorial control. To the river’s east are territories controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while pro-regime, Iran-backed forces dominate the western banks. Mutual concerns over the other side’s presence and long-term intentions in the area could prompt clashes between their allied forces, which in turn could draw in Tehran and Washington. II. Recent Developments 31 May 2020 Media reports suggested that there had been an air strike against “three military vehicles belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary fighters near the Iraqi border”. There were separate reports of strikes targeting “Iran-backed militias in northern Syria”. View More 24 May 2020 Prime Minister Netanyahu told the cabinet that “the security challenges have not stopped for a moment, neither have the threats. You certainly heard the ruler of Iran, Khamenei, threatening our destruction. Whoever threatens us with destruction will certainly not succeed, but places himself in great danger”. “Our policy is to oppose Iranian aggression in every place and to oppose Iran’s attempts to entrench in Syria”, Netanyahu added. “We are active constantly and… oppose Iran’s attempt to place or develop in Syria weapons to serve its proxies and forces that could endanger the State of Israel”. In related remarks, Defence Minister Benny Gantz indicated that “we are still keeping a close watch on the military fronts in Lebanon and Syria. The security problems that could happen in the north have not passed… We have to stretch our hand out to peace on every front – and have the military strength that can ensure we will reach peace and preserve it”. View More 21 May 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, indicated that “we have seen some tactical displacement of Iranian troops. We see both Russia and Syria recognising the incentives for Iranian troops and forces under Iranian command and control to leave Syria… That has been a condition of American and the international community providing reconstruction assistance”. Hook added that Iran “is an obstacle… to moving along toward a post-conflict political process. So we think that there are increasing incentives for Iran to leave Syria”. Relatedly, the Israeli military reported “a backward movement [of Iranian/Iranian-backed forces] from various locations to other locations that are further away and in reduced numbers”, assessing the shift to be “not massive, not underwhelming” yet “undeniable”. View More 19 May 2020 Israel’s top military official asserted that “we will continue to use various military tools and specialised fighting techniques to harm the enemy”, adding that “dozens of attacks that were carried out, including recently, have already proven the superiority of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) intelligence and firepower”. “When the Israeli home front is threatened by thousands of missiles and rockets, we will not hesitate to attack forcefully in order to thwart those threats”, he added. View More 18 May 2020 Outgoing Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that “we have intensified the scope of the attacks against Iranian forces in Syria. We’ve made it clear by our actions that there’s no place protected from us. There’s no safe place for those who try to attack the State of Israel”. He further argued that “Iran has in fact started a process of withdrawing from Syria, but we’ve got to finish the job… We have to increase the diplomatic, economic, military and technological pressure, as well as operate in other realms”. The same day, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “we are in Syria to help them fight terrorism… our attendance in Syria does not concern the U.S. and the Zionist regime [ie, Israel] at all”. View More 17 May 2020 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei contended that “the Americans openly say that they have deployed their forces in Syria because there is oil there. Of course, they will not stay for long either in Iraq or in Syria. They will certainly have to leave those countries, and they will definitely be expelled”. View More 16 May 2020 Syrian state media reported an explosion in Aleppo. Later in the day, airstrikes were reported near the Iraq-Syria border. View More 13 May 2020 The U.S. convened the UN “Security Council to meet under its 2231 Format to discuss Iran’s April 22 satellite launch”, which it called “yet another example of Iran’s relentless defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231”. According to the U.S. mission, its representatives “highlighted Iran’s ongoing violation of the UN arms embargo in Resolution 2231, reminding Council members that Iran continues to funnel weapons to proxy forces and terrorist groups in places like Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain”. The U.S. also argued that “Iran’s continued violations of the Security Council’s arms embargo demands greater pressure from the Security Council, not less, and the U.S. will work tirelessly with a coalition of concerned nations to ensure the embargo is extended”. View More 9 May 2020 A senior U.S. diplomat indicated that “Iran has been persistent in its efforts to establish this beachhead basically on Israel’s border and to bring in advanced weaponry and assets targeting Israel and moving equipment… through Syria to Hizbollah with this sort of land bridge. We see repeatedly, oftentimes with no claims of responsibility, that these assets are being hit with great regularity, just pounded, and it would make sense at a certain point that Iran would want to cut its losses and downsize its presence there just because it’s increasingly costly to them in terms of life and property”. The official added that the Iranians “would be well advised to start using some of this investment in this military infrastructure in Syria and with Hizbollah to start spending some of that money on their own people who are suffering terribly from COVID”. View More 7 May 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, confirmed that “we see some Iranian movement around Syria pulling back from areas where the Israelis have struck them. We’ve also seen a withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias – some Hizbollah, some from other countries. But this may be chalked up to a relative lull in the fighting”. He further noted that “what we have not seen… is any strategic Iranian commitment not to try to use Syria both as a second launching pad for long-range weapons against Israel and as a conduit – the famous Shiite Crescent – on to provide Hizbollah more lethal and more modern precision-guided missiles, again, to threaten Israel. That would be the big change”. Jeffrey added that “our policy right now is to restore the situation in 2011 before the conflict began, and that would eventually lead to all of the other military forces that have entered leaving. Ones were most interested in, of course, are the Iranians and the Iranian-commanded militias”. View More 6 May 2020 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that “we have been very clear to the Assad regime all along, and to the Russians in Syria: the Iranians need to leave. They need to leave not only the south west corner that has a direct and real impact on Israel and risks to the Golan, but more broadly throughout the country”. He further argued that “the very terror regime that we talk about in the Islamic Republic of Iran has got a campaign that supports what Assad has done that has brutalised and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands, caused six or seven million people to have to flee Syria. The Iranian regime is responsible for that in the same way that the Syrian regime is”. View More 5 May 2020 Amidst a series of suspected Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett asserted that “we are determined, more determined [than Iran], and I can tell you why — for Iran, Syria is an adventure happening 1,000km away from home. For us, it’s our lives”. He further warned that “Iranian soldiers who come to Syria and operate there… are putting their lives at risk, they are paying that price and will continue to do so. We will not give up and we will not allow the establishment of an Iranian forward operating base in Syria”. In related comments, an unnamed Israeli defence official assessed that “Syria is paying a growing price for the Iranian presence in its territory, for a war that isn’t [Syria’s]. Iran has turned from an asset to Syria into a burden”. View More 4 May 2020 Syrian state media reported that the “air defences confronted… a missile aggression” near Aleppo that “targeted some military depots”. There was also reports of a separate strike in Deir al-Zour province. View More 20 April 2020 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with President Bashar al-Assad and other senior Syrian officials during a visit to Damascus. Zarif told Assad that “the U.S.’s true intentions have come to light with regards to its refusal to lift unfair sanctions against nations during tough times of fighting” COVID-19, and the two sides discussed bilateral and regional matters including the Astana Peace Process. The U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, reacted to Zarif’s trip by asserting: “if Iran were truly concerned about the health and safety of the Syrian people, it would support the UN-led political process under UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and withdraw IRGC, Hizbollah and other terrorist forces under its command from the entirety of Syria… Iran's only contributions to Syria have been violence and instability”. He went on to stress that “we continue to offer humanitarian assistance to help address the coronavirus outbreak, while the Assad regime, Russia and Iran obstruct aid and starve the Syrian people of food and medicine”. View More 16 April 2020 The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group “agreed to maintain maximum pressure on Daesh/ISIS despite the several and multifaceted challenges, including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in order to achieve the enduring defeat of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria”. They also “agreed that Operation Inherent Resolve’s training role, temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, will resume as conditions permit”. “The Political Directors of the Global Coalition, while maintaining the importance of guaranteeing the sovereignty of Iraq, also stressed the importance of increasing our various forms of assistance and stabilisation support to liberated areas”, the statement added. View More 7 April 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that “Hizbollah has fewer dollars today to engage in nefarious activity than they did when President Trump took office, and they will continue to have fewer dollars tomorrow until they fundamentally get the Iranian regime to change its model”. He further asserted that Iran used its resources “to take weaponry into Iraq, to underwrite Hizbollah and Lebanon and threaten Israel, all of the things that the Iranians have engaged in for so long, even in this [COVID-19] crisis the Iranian regime hasn’t ceased doing, that’s most unfortunate”. Pompeo added: “we hope that the people of Iran one day will get a regime with a change in outlook, a change which says, ‘no, we want to respect what the Iranian people truly want’”. View More 23 March 2020 In a statement marking the anniversary of ISIS’s territorial defeat, the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition indicated that “we have reached a point in the campaign where our partners are taking the fight to the remnants of Daesh independently and preventing Daesh’s resurgence. As a result, the Coalition will consolidate to fewer bases with fewer people and remains committed to supporting our partners ensuring the enduring defeat of Daesh”. The Global Coalition also issued a statement for the occasion, noting that “ISIS remains a significant threat. The Global Coalition will continue its comprehensive efforts in Iraq and Syria, and globally, to deny ISIS’s ambitions and the activities of its branches and networks, until the job is done”. View More 17 March 2020 The U.S. designated Syrian “Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Ali Abdullah Ayoub for his deliberate actions since December 2019 to prevent a ceasefire from taking hold in northern Syria”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked that “we stand on the side of the Syrian people. While the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian enablers continue their illusory quest for a military solution in Syria, we are committed to a peaceful political solution in line with UNSCR 2254”. “We call on all parties to cease their destabilising activities, agree to a nationwide ceasefire and constructively participate in the political process”, Pompeo added. “If they do not, the alternative is clear: they will face increasing economic pressure and diplomatic isolation”. View More 17 March 2020 The U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition announced that it had “conducted a base transfer ceremony with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at al-Qaim”, located close to Iraq’s border with Syria. “The Coalition will operate from fewer locations but remains committed to supporting our partners in their fight against Daesh [ie, ISIS]”, the statement added. View More 11 March 2020 Syrian state media reported that “unidentified aircrafts have attacked Deir al-Zour north-eastern countryside in vicinity of the Syrian-Iraqi borders… causing only material damage”. View More 10 March 2020 Testifying before the House Armed Service Committee, CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie affirmed that “most of the U.S. intelligence community predicts that without sustained pressure levied against it, ISIS has the potential to reconstitute in Iraq and Syria in short order, beyond the current capabilities of the U.S. to neutralise it without a capable, partnered ground force”. On Syria, he recommended that “moving forward, we must continue our support to NATO ally Turkey and our D-ISIS partner force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while maintaining deconfliction with Russia, which, along with the Assad regime, aggressively challenges the Coalition mission in various ways”. McKenzie further reiterated that “we remain in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq for one reason: the defeat of ISIS”, adding that “hindering our ability to work with the Iraqi Security Forces toward this objective [of defeating ISIS] are rogue elements of the Popular Mobilisation Forces more beholden to Iran’s regime than the government of Iraq. Some of these militias smuggle advanced weapons into Iraq from Iran, not to defend the country from ISIS, but to undermine existing security and threaten U.S. and Coalition forces”. McKenzie also indicated that “we are in the process of bringing air defence systems, ballistic missile defence systems into Iraq – particularly to protect ourselves against another potential Iranian attack”. View More 10 March 2020 A senior U.S. diplomat assessed that “one of the major risks to the region of this terrible crisis [in Idlib] is the involvement of Iranian forces – not only to prop up the war criminal Assad regime, but also to deploy long-range missile and other weapon systems to threaten our partners and allies such as Turkey, such as Israel, such as Jordan, and to threaten our own U.S. military positions in the Middle East as we saw recently in Iraq. So we have noticed that these forces have become very directly involved in the fighting in Idlib”. He further asserted that “this is another indication that Iran is driving on its own axis in Syria… trying to expand its own hegemonic agenda throughout the northern Levant, and this is something the U.S. is absolutely opposed to”. View More 5 March 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underlined that “hundreds of thousands of Syrians of all faiths, but predominantly Muslim, are being harmed by what the Assad regime, the Russians and the Iranians are doing inside of Idlib. And the Turkish Government has asked us for a handful of things. We’re evaluating all of those requests”. “We believe firmly that our NATO partner Turkey has the full right to defend itself against the risk that’s being created by what Assad, the Russians and the Iranians are doing inside of Syria”, Pompeo added. View More 3 March 2020 The U.S. “announced $108 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria in response to the ongoing crisis caused by Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces”. “We join the UN in calling for an immediate ceasefire and halt to the brutal violence in northwest Syria by Assad regime, Russian and Iranian forces”, said the State Department, while expressing U.S. “commitment to a credible and inclusive UN-facilitated political solution pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. View More 1 March 2020 In a statement, Iran's Military Advisory Centre in Syria asserted that the Turkish “military started airstrikes and bombardment of our positions… mediators told the Turkish military that, under its support, terrorists have attacked our bases and that we confronted them standing beside the Syria military. But the Turks did not pay any attention to our remarks and continued their airstrikes. Some of our forces have been martyred”. The centre called on Turkey to “to act reasonably in Idlib and consider the benefits of the Syrian nation”, adding: “we, hereby, inform the Turkish nation that their children have been within our gunshot in the past recent month. We could take our revenge but our commanders have prevented such a measure”. The same day, Iran and Lebanon held funerals for multiple soldiers killed in Idlib. View More 18 February 2020 Israeli Minister of Defence Naftali Bennett indicated that “we are seeing the initial indications of Iran weakening and considering a new tack in Syria”. He added that “[Iranians] are sending forces in order to establish a presence there to exhaust us, but we are turning this disadvantage into an advantage. We have intelligence and operational superiority, and we are telling the Iranians clearly: Get out of Syria… we are moving from a defensive position to an offensive position – to weaken, to exhaust, to tire and wear out the head of the octopus [ie, Iran] in order to weaken its arms”. View More 12 February 2020 A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) reported that “coalition forces, conducting a patrol near Qamishili, Syria, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces. After coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals. In self-defence, coalition troops returned fire”. “The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation”, the spokesperson indicated, adding that “one U.S. soldier had a minor superficial scratch” during the exchange. According to Syrian state media, one civilian was killed and another injured during the clash. View More 12 February 2020 Responding to statements by senior Israeli officials about countering Iran in Syria, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “Iran will not compromise and hesitate for a moment to defend its presence in Syria and also defend its national security and regional interests. Consequently, Iran will give a decisive and crushing response to any aggression or stupid act by the Zionist regime [ie, Israel]”. View More 12 February 2020 Responding to statements by senior Israeli officials about countering Iran in Syria, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “Iran will not compromise and hesitate for a moment to defend its presence in Syria and also defend its national security and regional interests. Consequently, Iran will give a decisive and crushing response to any aggression or stupid act by the Zionist regime [ie, Israel]”. View More 11 February 2020 Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett assessed that “for years on end, we have fought against the Iranian tentacles in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, but we have not focused enough on weakening Iran itself. Now we are changing the paradigm, we are now engaged in a continued effort to weaken the Iranian octopus through economic, diplomatic and intelligence measures, as well as with military means and various other approaches”. Bennett further addressed Iran and stated: “you have no business being in Syria, and so long as you continue to build terrorist bases there, we will continue to hurt you even further”. View More 8 February 2020 Israel Defence Minister Naftali Bennett stated that “we are in a process of switching to hurting the head of the octopus – Iran’s power”. “I am not necessarily talking about a full-blown war with Iran tomorrow; it is more similar to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the U.S., with the two regional powers Israel and Iran”. Bennett also posited that “we have intelligence superiority and aerial superiority” in Syria, and warned that “it is a bad place for Iran to be. Anything they bring there we will immediately strike... we will do more and more so that Syria becomes their Vietnam”. Bennett also indicated that in consultations with his U.S. counterpart “we sorted out the coordination exactly – they’re taking Iraq, and we’re taking Syria”. “We have significantly intensified, including this week, with very strong attacks against Iran, against the Iranian presence, against Iranian bases, against Iranian surface-to-air missiles, against Iranian fighters… in Syria”, he added. “It’s like a contiguous puzzle – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Imagine a water pipe, only the water is rockets and terrorism. If you take out a piece of the pipe, then you’ve broken up the contiguity and it dries up”. View More 8 February 2020 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, describing a “political solution as the only way out of the crisis” and underscoring “Tehran's full preparedness for any cooperation within the framework of respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria”. View More 5 February 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Syria, James Jeffery, indicated that “we are continuing to work with the Iraqis”, adding that “the NATO Mission Iraq has indicated a willingness to take on a somewhat larger role”. He also reported that “we have not seen a significant increase in ISIS activities either in northeast Syria or in Iraq. They’ve been at a level that has been of concern… There may have been a slight increase in the number of attacks, but because the attack levels are fairly low by our historic standards with ISIS and other insurgency and terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few incidents here and there can make a difference”. View More 29 January 2020 In statement, the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group underscored that “the Coalition will continue to further develop its support to and close partnership with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Security Forces and our partners in the region in their ongoing efforts to diminish Daesh/ISIS’s capabilities and ensure it cannot reemerge”. Expressing “full respect of Iraqi sovereignty”, the coalition stated: “we will continue the close dialogue with the Iraqi government on appropriate measures to adapt the operational efficiency and coordination of our collective efforts”. “In Syria”, the statement added, “the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. View More 29 January 2020 In statement, the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group underscored that “the Coalition will continue to further develop its support to and close partnership with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Security Forces and our partners in the region in their ongoing efforts to diminish Daesh/ISIS’s capabilities and ensure it cannot reemerge”. Expressing “full respect of Iraqi sovereignty”, the coalition stated: “we will continue the close dialogue with the Iraqi government on appropriate measures to adapt the operational efficiency and coordination of our collective efforts”. “In Syria”, the statement added, “the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. View More 25 January 2020 The commander of U.S. Central Command, General Frank Mckenzie, visited eastern Syria. View More 23 January 2020 A senior U.S. military official emphasised that “we do continue our partner D-ISIS operations with the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as our efforts to secure critical infrastructure in Deir el-Zour and Hasakah areas to prevent that critical infrastructure from falling back into the hands of ISIS, where it was a significant ability for them to extract resources that they could use for their purposes”. View More 14 January 2020 Syrian state media alleged that “Israeli warplanes perpetrated a new aggression on T4 airport from the direction of al-Tanf region… The army air defenses immediately intercepted the hostile missiles and shot down a number of them, meanwhile, four missiles reached the targeted area and the damages were limited to materials”. View More 13 January 2020 In a meeting with the Syrian prime minister, Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani emphasised that “as long as terrorist forces of the U.S. stay in the west Asia region, this region will experience no stability, peace or sustainable security… expulsion of the wicked U.S. is possible through unity of regional nations and governments”. View More 2 January 2020 The head of the IRGC's Qods force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. strike in Baghdad. The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that "at the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani”, adding that "Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region". Iran confirmed Soleimani’s death, and the IRGC said that four other Qods force members along with five Iraqis, notably including a senior Hashd official, were also killed in the operation. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei subsequently asserted that "enemies should bear in mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran will take tough revenge on criminals over the martyrdom of General Soleimani". View More 30 December 2019 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, emphasised that 29 December U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria constituted “a defensive action” against a group Hook characterised as “an Iranian-backed rogue militia”. Asserting that “we’ve already seen, just in the past two months alone, eleven attacks on bases inside Iraq that are hosting coalition forces”, Hook argued that “the last thing the U.S. is looking for is kinetic action in the Middle East… But we’ve also made clear that we will not tolerate attacks against U.S. citizens, our military or our partners and allies in the region”. He further assessed that “Iran is currently in a state of panicked aggression. The regime understands very clearly the kind of economic pressure they’re under, and they also know that it’s not sustainable. And so they are lashing out”. Another senior U.S. official noted with respect to the 29 December strikes that the targets “on the Syrian side of the border were, I think even more significant in many ways, although I’m not going to get into why”. View More 30 December 2019 A senior U.S. official indicated that “it’s been longstanding U.S. policy. That all Iranian-commanded forces – which would include, in our view, Kataeb Hizbollah – leave Syria”. The official further indicated that “we do see threat streams and threatening activities by all of these [Iran-supported] forces that are of concern to us from a force protection standpoint… we can respond not just in Iraq, but we can respond anywhere that we think it makes sense to us and to the interests and security of our partners and allies in dealing with this threat to the region”. View More 30 December 2019 Referring to 29 December U.S. strikes against five Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo maintained that “this was a defensive action designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq, and it was aimed also at deterring Iran. This was an Iranian-backed rogue militia acting to deny the Iraqi people their basic sovereignty. It’s Qasem Soleimani, it’s the ayatollah working to expand their terror campaign all around the world. They took a strike at an American facility. President Trump’s been pretty darn patient, and he’s made clear at the same time that when Americans’ lives were at risk we would respond”. “Our mission continues to try and get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation”, Pompeo added. “We just want Iran to stop their terror campaign. We want them to agree that they won’t have nuclear weapons, that they won’t enrich uranium, a set of basic things”. View More 30 December 2019 Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi responded to U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria by calling the operation “an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences”. Iraqi President Barham Saleh described the 29 December action, which followed a 27 December rocket attack against a military facility near Kirkuk, as “unacceptable and considered as an aggressive action and violation of Iraqi sovereignty”. The Iraqi Security Council underlined that the attack "violates the goals and principles for which the international coalition is formed… [and] pushes Iraq to review the relationship and security and political and legal work contexts in a manner that preserves the sovereignty and security of the country, protecting the lives of its children and promoting common interests”. View More 30 December 2019 In a statement following 29 December U.S. strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases in Iraq and Syria, the IRGC said the operation “was a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty” and contended that “the Iraqi people and PMU [Popular Mobilisation Units] have the right to retaliate and respond to the recent great U.S. crime”. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson commented that “the U.S. has demonstrated its decisive support for terrorism and disregard for the independence and sovereignty of nations by launching these attacks”, adding that “it must accept the responsibility for the consequences of such illegal measure”. View More 29 December 2019 Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz asserted that the Pentagon's "announcement that the U.S. attacked five Kataeb Hizbollah targets in Iraq and Syria in response to the attack on the K1 base is a turning point in the regional response to Iran and its proxies. If Iran fails to understand the power of the U.S. they will be making a big mistake". In a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo the following day, Prime Minister Netanyahu "commended… the important U.S. action against Iran and its proxies in the region". View More 29 December 2019 Following a 27 December rocket attack against an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk that hosts U.S. forces, the Pentagon confirmed that “U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five Kataeb Hizbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade Kataeb Hizbollah's ability to conduct future attacks against OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) coalition forces”. Asserting that “KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Qods force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces”, a senior U.S. defence official underscored that “the U.S. and its coalition partners fully respect Iraqi sovereignty, and support a strong and independent Iraq. The U.S., however, will not be deterred from exercising its right of self-defence”. The statement further emphasised that “Iran and their Kataeb Hizbollah proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq's sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces”. View More 25 December 2019 Media reports indicated that there were five fatalities in a strike against purported “operation sites of pro-Iranian militias” in Al-Bukamal near the Syria-Iraq border. View More 25 December 2019 Israel’s military chief of staff assessed that “there is a possibility that we will face a limited confrontation with Iran and we are preparing for it”. He went on to assert that “we will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, or in Iraq… Iraq is undergoing a civil war, when the Qods force is operating there on a daily basis, when the country itself has turned into an ungoverned area. Advanced weapons are being smuggled by the Qods force in Iraq on a monthly basis and we can’t allow that”. View More 20 December 2019 President Trump signed the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019” (the Caesar Act). In a statement, Secretary of State Pompeo indicated that the act “provides the U.S. tools to help end the horrific and ongoing conflict in Syria by promoting accountability for the Assad regime. It also holds accountable those responsible for the widespread death of civilians and for numerous atrocities including the use of chemical weapons and other barbaric weapons”. Pompeo added that “the law provides for sanctions and travel restrictions on those who provide support to members of the Assad regime, in addition to Syrian and international enablers who have been responsible for, or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Syria”. View More 17 December 2019 Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett contended that “the ayatollahs in Iran send us their tentacles in an effort to terrorise the citizens of Israel. The more Iran tries to establish itself on Syrian soil, the deeper it will sink in the Syrian sands. Syria is increasingly becoming Iran's Vietnam”. He went on to assert that “we will increase the pressure, Iran has nothing to look for on Syrian soil. We will continue to protect the country's borders”. View More 8 December 2019 Airstrikes reportedly targeted “three Iranian-controlled weapons depots” near Al-Bukamal, close to the Iraq-Syria border. View More 4 December 2019 A facility near al-Bukamal that media reports described as Iran-linked was reportedly hit by airstrikes. Prime Minister Netanyahu, asked whether he had authorised the attack, responded: “I don’t talk about that”. View More 4 December 2019 Speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that “we have been fortunate that President Trump has led a consistent policy of pressure against Iran. Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak even today in the region. They’re trying to have staging grounds against us and the region from Iran itself, from Iraq, from Syria, from Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and we are actively engaged in countering that aggression”. Netanyahu further maintained that “Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say let’s make it totter even further”. Secretary Pompeo, citing unrest in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, stated that “some of these are people that are seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live, and they recognise the threat that is posed by the kleptocrats that are running the Islamic Republic of Iran”. View More 27 November 2019 Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei maintained that “the domineering powers have always opposed the independence of nations and insulted them. In this regard, they never hesitate to express their intentions, as the Americans explicitly say they have entered the east of the Euphrates for Syrian oil. Or they say that they have entered the military bases in Iraq without permission, completely disregarding the government and capital of the country”. View More 14 November 2019 Addressing a Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Small Group Ministerial meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that “we’re watching the space once occupied by this fraudulent caliphate [ie, ISIS] like a hawk. That’s why we’re maintaining our residual presence at Tanf, in southern Syria, and our capacity to conduct air operations. We’ve repositioned some our troops in north east Syria and in the broader region as well, to make sure that ISIS will never get a second wind and to prevent ISIS from recapturing the oil fields”. “We are continuing to pursue a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian conflict with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 as the guide so that stability can, one day, return to this war-torn land”, Pompeo added. The coalition also issued a joint communique. View More 13 November 2019 U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that “our mission [in Syria] is the enduring defeat of ISIS. We're going to have about 500 to 600-ish troops there, at the end of the day. We're still moving troops out of northeastern Syria”. In related remarks, a U.S. senior official, referring to oil fields around Deir al-Zour, noted that “the oil is – has been, for the last four years, managed by our partner, the civilian side of our partner operation, the SDC [Syrian Democratic Council]… And we have every expectation they will be continuing to do that without any interference from us”. “Our role”, he added, “is one of ensuring that they’re not bothered by anybody in continuing to do what they’ve been doing for the last four years”. View More 11 November 2019 Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah argued that “when we say that we need a sovereign government, we mean that it rejects the U.S. orders and follows the national interests. The Americans are to be blamed for impeding the economic process in Lebanon, and the Lebanese officials are expected to hold their responsibilities”. Nasrallah also asserted that “claims that missiles will be sent to Hizbollah via the al-Bukamal border crossings are baseless. We have an overload of missiles in Lebanon, and we don’t know where to store them”. View More 7 November 2019 A senior U.S. defence official indicated that “the military mission in Syria continues. It is the defeat of ISIS, like it has been since 2014, shoulder-to-shoulder with our SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] partners”. He further clarified that “the securing of the oil fields is a subordinate task to that mission, and – and the purpose of that task is to deny ISIS the – the revenues from that oil infrastructure”. Another defence official asserted that “everyone in the region knows where American forces are. We're very clear with anyone in the region in working to deconflict where our forces are. If anyone – we work to ensure that – that no one approaches or has – shows hostile intent to our forces, and if they do, our commanders maintain the right of self-defence”. View More 7 November 2019 Syria and Russia jointly issued a statement asserting that “in southern Syria, the U.S. continues to hold the illegally occupied 55-km zone around Al-Tanf and prevent the dissolution of the Rukban refugee camp”. “We urge the entire international community to exert pressure on the U.S., which continues to violate the international law by its illegal presence in Syria, and to oblige them to withdraw completely troops from the sovereign Syrian Arab Republic”, the statement added. View More 6 November 2019 A senior Israeli official revealed that “we identify with the deep distress of the Kurds, and we are assisting them through a range of channels”. She further indicated that “Israel indeed has a salient interest in preserving the strength of the Kurds and the additional minorities in the north Syria area as moderate and pro-Western elements… the possible collapse of the Kurdish hold in north Syria is a negative and dangerous scenario as far as Israel is concerned. It is absolutely clear that such an event would bring about a bolstering of negative elements in the area, headed by Iran”. View More 1 November 2019 The U.S. State Department in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018 assessed that “the [Syrian] regime continued to provide weapons and political support to Hizbollah and continued to allow Iran to rearm the terrorist organisation”. It further contended that “the Assad regime’s relationship with Hizbollah and Iran grew stronger in 2018 as the regime became more reliant on external actors to fight opponents and secure areas”. View More 30 October 2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that “we will be in Syria as long as the Syrian government and people want”. He went on to say that “it seems that the U.S. is staying to protect the oil and at least President Trump is honest to say what the U.S. intends to do”. View More 28 October 2019 Reaffirming that “the United States will retain control of oil fields in northeast Syria”, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper stressed that “we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there”. Responding to a question on whether this mission “include[s] denying access, preventing Russian or Syrian forces”, Secretary Esper went on to assert that “the short answer is yes, it presently does, because in that case we want to make sure that SDF does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the Defeat ISIS mission. So that's our mission, is to secure the oil fields”. Esper also reaffirmed that “we also were given the earlier directive to retain forces at the Al-Tanf garrison”. View More 27 October 2019 President Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S.-led raid in north-western Syria. Trump also indicated that “we are leaving soldiers to secure the oil… and we’re securing it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it stops ISIS, because ISIS got tremendous wealth from that oil. We have taken it. It’s secured. Number two… either we’ll negotiate a deal with whoever is claiming it, if we think it’s fair, or we will militarily stop them very quickly”. He went on to remark that “what I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an Exxon Mobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly”. View More 25 October 2019 U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper indicated that “the U.S. will maintain a reduced presence in Syria to deny ISIS access to oil revenue as we reposition for the next phase of the Defeat ISIS campaign”. Esper added that “ultimately, we always intended, as the president directed, to maintain a presence at the Al-Tanf garrison”. He also revealed that “we are now taking some action… to strengthen our position at Deir el-Zour, to ensure that we can deny ISIS access to the oil fields”, which “will include some mechanized forces”. Previously, via Twitter, President Trump had stated that “perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the oil region”. View More 23 October 2019 President Trump stated that “we’ve secured the oil [in Syria], and, therefore, a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the area where they have the oil. And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future”. He further maintained that “the nations in the region must ultimately take on the responsibility of helping Turkey and Syria police their border”. Referring to the ceasefire between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, President Trump asserted that “should Turkey fail to honor its obligations, including the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, which I truly believe they will do, we reserve the right to re-impose crippling sanctions, including substantially increased tariffs on steel and all other products coming out of Turkey”. View More 22 October 2019 After the five-day ceasefire between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds expired, Russia and Turkey inked a memorandum of understanding stating that “Russian military police and Syrian border guards will … facilitate the removal of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30km (19 miles) from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours”. View More 22 October 2019 In an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper met with King Salman and the Saudi deputy defence minister. During the visit, responding to a question on the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia, Secretary Esper told reporters that “there are three tasks here: first, help the Saudis defend themselves against Iran; secondly, deter Iranian bad behaviour; and third, hold up the international rules-based order”. He further added that “the fact that the Saudis are going to underwrite that is something that we expect of all of our partners and allies, whether it's Asia or Europe, is to help share the cost, share the burden of either housing, hosting our troops on their land or supporting them in deployments, whatever the case may be”. On Syria, responding to a question on the future of the U.S. forces withdrawn from Syria to Iraq, Secretary Esper stated that “eventually, their destination is home.” View More 22 October 2019 Referring to Turkey’s military activities in north east Syria, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson indicated that “Iran does not believe in a military operation. Tehran believes both countries should seek solution through dialogue,” while also acknowledging Turkey’s security concerns. View More 21 October 2019 In Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper maintained that “our mission in Afghanistan has not changed. We continue to conduct counterterrorism operations while supporting the development of the ANDSF [ie, Afghan National Defence and Security Forces]”. “We are facing a virulent terrorist threat that originated in the form of al-Qaeda, and now finds itself in the Taliban and ISIS-K and other groups”, he added. On Syria, asserting that having destroyed the physical caliphate of ISIS met both Kurds’ and U.S.’s goals, Secretary Esper specified that “we had no obligation, if you will, to defend the Kurds against a longstanding NATO ally [i.e. Turkey]”. While media reports suggested that the withdrawal process of U.S. troops from northern Syria to Iraq had started, Secretary Esper announced that “we have troops in towns in northeast Syria that are located next to the oil fields, the troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal”. He added that “a purpose of those forces, working with the SDF, is to deny access to those oil fields by ISIS and others who may benefit from revenues that could be earned”. View More 20 October 2019 U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper explained that “the U.S. withdrawal continues apace from north-eastern Syria ... we’re talking weeks not days”. He further announced that “the current game plan is for those forces to re-position into western Iraq…to help defend Iraq”. View More 18 October 2019 U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo met with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and discussed “all the efforts we’ve made to push back against the threat not only to Israel, but to the region and the world, from the Islamic Republic of Iran”. View More 17 October 2019 Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo announced that “the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria”. View More 16 October 2019 Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani argued that “any measure which exacerbates insecurity and increases crisis in the region should be halted immediately… the regional crises, including the Syria and Yemen crises, have no military solution and they should be settled through diplomacy and Syrian-Syrian and Yemeni-Yemeni talks”. View More 15 October 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo announced that he had discussed with Iraqi President Barham Salih “our concerns over ongoing Turkish military incursion into north east Syria and the need for Turkey to stop its military offensive”. View More 15 October 2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif argued that “the imperative now is to end the incursion into Syria and address all concerns through Adana”. View More 13 October 2019 U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced that the U.S. would “begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria”. View More 12 October 2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif argued that “the Adana Agreement between Turkey and Syria – still valid – can be the better path to achieve security. Iran can help bring together the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian government and Turkey so that the Syrian Army together with Turkey can guard the border”. View More 10 October 2019 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies”. He added that “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people”. View More 10 October 2019 Iran’s foreign ministry expressed “concern over Turkey’s military action in Syrian territories” and called for “an immediate end to the attacks and the pullout of Turkish forces from Syrian soil”. It further reiterated that “Iran regards the current situation in the region as the fallout from extra-regional interference, especially by the U.S.”, offering “to play a role between the two countries, as it is in touch with both sides at the moment, with a view to settle problems within the framework of regional potentialities”. View More 9 October 2019 President Trump argued that “the U.S. has spent $8 trillion fighting and policing in the Middle East… going into the Middle East is the worst decision ever made in the history of our country”. He further declared that “now we are slowly and carefully bringing our great soldiers and military home. Our focus is on the big picture”. View More 9 October 2019 President Rouhani remarked that the “establishment of security in the northern Syrian and southern Turkish borders is possible only with the presence of the Syrian army and we must provide all grounds for the Syrian military presence in these areas”. He further contended that “the Americans must leave the region, and the Kurds should cooperate with the Syrian army, which is actually their own country”. Rouhani added that “we are in a position that we need peace in the region and the Syrian refugees must return to their country faster”, and urged Turkey to “pay more attention so that we do not face any new problems in the region”. View More 8 October 2019 In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry noted that Iran viewed “the U.S. decision to end its occupation of Syrian territories and withdraw its forces from the Arab country as a measure that must have been taken much earlier”. It further expressed “hope for the establishment of peace and stability in Syria and the region following the recent move by the U.S.” and iterated that “Iran is opposed to any possible military operation” by Turkey in Syria. View More 6 October 2019 The White House announced that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The U.S. Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and U.S. forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area”. On Twitter, President Trump asserted that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars, many of the them tribal, and bring our soldiers home”, going on to state that the U.S. would “crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us”. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif commented that the “U.S. is an irrelevant occupier in Syria – [it is] futile to seek its permission or rely on it for security. Achieving peace and fighting terror in Syria will only succeed thru respect for its territorial integrity and its people”. He added that “Adana provides framework for Turkey and Syria – Iran ready to help”. View More 30 September 2019 Iraq and Syria reopened the border crossing at Al-Bukamal. View More 26 September 2019 The U.S. Department of Treasury issued sanctions against “one entity, three individuals and five vessels participating in a sanctions evasion scheme to facilitate the delivery of jet fuel to Russian forces operating in Syria”. In related comments, Secretary of State Pompeo stated that “the U.S. has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19th in an attack at Latakia province, Syria… the U.S. will not allow these attacks to go unchallenged, nor will we tolerate those who choose to conceal these atrocities”. View More 26 September 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo stated that “the U.S. supports UN efforts to end military violence in Syria. Ongoing violence - fuelled by Iran and Russia - is exacerbating Syria’s dire humanitarian situation and must cease for a political solution to take root”. View More 18 September 2019 Iran’s President Rouhani remarked that “it is strange that the enemies of the region have not yet understood the power of the regional nations’ resistance… instead of admitting that Lebanon’s Hizbollah has high capabilities and power both in scientific and military knowledge and bravery in the field, or that a part of brave young people of Iraq have liberated different cities across the country from the hands of terrorists, and instead of admitting to the growth and greatness of nations like Syria and Yemen, they are seeking to accuse others”. View More 16 September 2019 President Rouhani remarked that “there is only a political solution to the Syrian crisis, and this can only be achieved through constructive interaction and participation by all Syrian people”. He further argued that “U.S. troops must leave the area as soon as possible and that the Syrian government's control must expand in the east and north of the Euphrates, as in the rest of Syria”. View More 9 September 2019 Airstrikes reportedly targeted “Iran-backed militias” near Al-Bukamal, close to the Iraq-Syria border. View More 25 August 2019 Iraqi paramilitary forces announced that two members of the Hizbollah Brigades had been killed in a drone attack near the Iraq-Syria border. View More 21 August 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo contented that “we're going to continue to do our best to ensure that particular shipment [of crude oil aboard the Grace 1/Adrian Darya 1 tanker] doesn't get into the hands of terrorists so it can risk American lives or lives of citizens in any other part of the world”. He further underscored that “we put in place a set of sanctions designed to deny the ayatollah the wealth to terrorise the world conventionally or with nuclear weapons, and we've been pretty effective”. We can see with Hizbollah…we can see with the Shiite forces in Iraq. We can see that they have fewer dollars. They're having to make really difficult decisions about whether to spend money on defence or just spend money back home”. He added that “we hope they will ultimately conclude that the best thing to do is to rejoin the community of nations, to stop conducting assassination campaigns in Europe, to cease with terror operations supporting Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip or Hizbollah in Lebanon and Syria”. “I don’t know that they will”, Pompeo assessed. “They’re pretty wedded to it, it’s ideological. It’s not even about logic. It’s deeply ingrained in their revolutionary culture, and we hope that the Iranian people will see a way to get the leadership in Iran to change its behaviour”. View More 20 August 2019 Referring to a U.S.- Turkey agreement following talks “to coordinate the establishment of a safe zones in northern Syria”, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson stated that “such kind of measures, like the other actions by the American officials, are destabilising and will create insecurity, apart from being instances of interference in Syria’s internal affairs”. View More 20 August 2019 Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Pompeo reiterated that “the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies continue to foment terror and unrest in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen with devastating humanitarian consequences”, adding that “since the U.S. declared our intention to bring all Iranian oil purchases to zero in April, the ayatollah has gone all in on a campaign of extortion diplomacy”. He also indicated that “we are already tracking very closely the JCPOA provisions expiring in October of 2020, namely the UN arms embargo and the travel restrictions on Qasem Soleimani”. “Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime”, Pompeo argued. “The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening”. At a press conference, Pompeo stated that “Iran’s continued development and testing of advanced ballistic missiles in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 is also an issue that the international community must address”. View More 15 August 2019 National Security Advisor John Bolton asserted that Iran is “a country that never really made the key decision to give up nuclear weapons. They have not modified their widespread support for international terrorism. They've not given up their troublemaking in the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria and Yemen. They’re still a threat in the Persian Gulf to oil, they’re a threat to our forces, not just in Iraq and Syria, but now in Afghanistan”. “This is a regime really that needs a fundamental change in its behaviour”, Bolton added. View More 11 June 2019 The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against "sixteen individuals and entities associated with an international network benefiting the Assad regime", including a pair of companies based in Lebanon that "facilitated shipments of Iranian-origin petroleum to Syria". View More 31 May 2019 Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed that “our efforts in Syria are aimed at a political resolution … UN Security Council Resolution 2254 is the guidepost”. Pompeo went on to refer to “the work that we’ve done with the Turks in Manbij, west of the Euphrates River, and we are attempting to set up a system… call it a buffer zone, call it what you will – that will reduce risk of terrorists attacking from Syria into Turkey and reduce risks that Turkey will come south and disrupt Kurdish activity inside of Syria”. View More 29 May 2019 The U.S.’ diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “our maximum pressure campaign on Iran is designed to deny the Iranian regime, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, the means to conduct its destructive foreign policy. Our campaign is working”. She elaborated that “the campaign is starving Iran’s proxies of the funds they rely on to operate on behalf of the regime”, citing examples including Hizbollah, Hamas, the Syrian government and Shiite militias in Iraq. She went on to affirm that “we will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime to deny it the means to conduct its destructive foreign policy and compel the regime to negotiate a comprehensive new deal that addresses the full scope of its malign behaviour”, while also indicating that “there is a path forward and we will talk tomorrow if they would like to see the bright future that we believe is there for the Iranian people”. The spokesperson further indicated that “we do not want a war with Iran. We want to de-escalate with Iran. In fact, what we seek is to end economic sanctions, to end the maximum pressure campaign”. View More 22 May 2019 The U.S. special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “the [Trump] administration is pursuing three mutually reinforcing whole-of-government strategic objectives in Syria – the enduring defeat of ISIS, the removal of all Iranian-led forces from Syria and the resolution of the Syrian crisis through a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. “The Iranian regime’s malign activity has left us no choice but to pursue the withdrawal of all Iranian-commanded forces from the entirety of Syria”, Jeffrey elaborated. “Iran’s reckless behaviour makes the situation in Syria more dangerous… Iranian-backed forces use bases inside Syria to participate in violence again[st] the Syrian people and launch attacks against Israel”. He added that “Iran and its proxies threaten U.S. national security by sowing instability in the region that exacerbates tensions between communities and provides space for terrorist groups to thrive”. View More 14 May 2019 U.S. Central Command indicated that remarks by a senior military official in the U.S.-led counter-ISIS campaign, who had stated that "there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria", "ran counter to the identified credible threats". CENTCOM's statement added that "OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve] is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq". View More 27 April 2019 A senior U.S. military official asserted that "we're going to continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran... I believe we'll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous". He went on to indicate that "over the long term, we're going to reduce our forces in Syria, we recognise that, that's the guidance in which we're operating... that will be something that we will look at very carefully as we go forward". The U.S., he added, would maintain "a long-term presence in Iraq, focussed on the counter-terror mission". View More 16 April 2019 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif traveled to Damascus for meetings with President Assad and other senior Syrian officials. View More 4 April 2019 Asked to describe the threat posed by Iran, Secretary Pompeo replied that "today there continues to be a concerted assassination effort, campaign, inside of Europe... to allow something like this to happen is just unacceptable. We are working with our partners all around Europe to make sure we all have the right information placed in the right place at the right time to reduce this risk and reduce this threat". "A second component of this is the deterrence effort, which is the undertaking that the U.S. is engaged in to reduce the capacity of the Islamic Republic of Iran to undertake this kind of activity by sanctioning them in a way that force them to have fewer resources so that they can create these risks around the world", Pompeo added. He went on to indicate that "there are European foreign fighter terrorists sitting today in Iraq and in Syria that we now have to figure out a way to make sure do not return to the jihadi battlefield. The efforts that Iran is engaged in in Syria fundamentally make that problem set more difficult, as do Iranian Shiite militias that are not under the control of the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq". View More 4 April 2019 A senior Syrian official asserted that "Syria will liberate the occupied Golan by all means and all choices are on the table". He also argued that "the U.S. administration lies with regard to pulling out its troops, which are illegitimately deployed in Syria, and it isn't our duty to teach them to be honest". View More 2 April 2019 Iraqi President Barham Salih assessed that "the situation in Syria is dangerous. Some believe that the risks have been limited now with ISIS' defeat. I do not share this view. We must not underestimate the remaining terrorist threat in Syria or the severe humanitarian challenge posed by the displaced and refugees". View More 26 March 2019 Foreign Minister Zarif argued that "[President] Trump and company try to take credit for the 'defeat of ISIS' - which was created and nourished by their invasion of Iraq and their fomenting of unrest in Syria". View More 25 March 2019 The U.S. added "dozens of new vessels involved in illicit oil shipments" from Iran to Syria in an update to a November 2018 advisory. A senior Treasury Department official noted that "the U.S. has made it clear to the maritime shipping community that we will not tolerate the use of petroleum as a mechanism to finance rogue regimes in Iran and Syria", adding that "as Iran and Syria attempt to adapt their illicit tactics and shift to new vessels, we will continue to provide these updates to the shipping community". View More 23 March 2019 In a statement, President Trump declared that "together with our partners... the U.S. has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq - 100 per cent of the 'caliphate'". "While on occasion these cowards will resurface", Trump went on to note, "they have lost all prestige and power. They are losers and will always be losers"