How Rex Tillerson Thinks He Can Avoid Mission Creep in Syria

Saul Bowman
January 19, 2018

In recent days, troops backing Assad have said they want the us presence in Syria to end, according to Syria's state-run news agency. "Once Assad is gone from power, the United States will gladly encourage the normalization of economic relationships between Syria and other nations".

Over the past few years the US has been actively supporting a multi-ethnic group in Syria called the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is mainly made up of the leftist-nationalist Kurdish force YPG, as part of efforts to fight the Islamic State group. "U.S. disengagement from Syria would provide Iran a golden opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria".

The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring the IS can not re-emerge, he said. "Instead, we will encourage worldwide assistance to rebuild areas the global coalition and its local partners have liberated from Islamic State", he said.

Both Syrian and Iranian forces have threatened U.S. forces in Syria and as tensions continue to be strained with Russian Federation as it pushes for a more prominent role in the region.

He said the United States expects that the desire for a return to normal life coupled with pressure from the outside "will help rally the Syrian people and individuals within the regime to compel Assad to step aside".

Tillerson said free, transparent elections in which the Syrian diaspora participates "will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power". Hadi al-Bahra, Syrian opposition member told Reuters that more details were needed on how Washington "will force the Assad regime into accepting a political settlement that leads to establishing a safe and neutral environment that leads to a transition through free and fair elections". The U.S. has at least 2,000 troops in Syria, according to figures the Pentagon released in December.

Tillerson went on to say: "Reducing and expelling malicious Iranian influence from Syria depends on a democratic Syria". Tillerson said Washington would "vigorously support" United Nations efforts to end the conflict, a so-far stalled process, and called on Russian Federation, a key ally of Assad, to "put new levels of pressure" on the Syrian government to "credibly engage" with United Nations peace efforts.

The Foreign Ministry, in remarks carried on Syria's state news agency SANA, said Thursday that America's military presence is "illegal".

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that the United States did not intend to preserve Syria's sovereignty, accusing Washington of seeking to create a Kurdish-controlled entity along the Turkish and Iraqi border zones.

Turkey, which regards the US-backed YPG militia as a faction of the outlawed Kurdish separatist PKK and thus a terrorist group, reacted with fury and vowed to destroy the new unit.

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