Syria's Assad threatens force against US-backed Kurds

Casey Dawson
May 31, 2018

On Monday, Israeli media reported that Israel and Russian Federation reached an undisclosed agreement aiming to keep non-Syrian forces, including Iranian militias and Hezbollah, out of the southern Syria border region-a key Israeli demand.

The statement was made after on Tuesday Israel had reportedly agreed with Russian Federation that forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be deployed near the Israeli northern borders.

The Israeli lawmaker also suggested that Iran's removal from Syria is in the interest of Russian Federation, the United States, Syria and Israel. Washington has also demanded Tehran withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.

Assad said the government had "started now opening doors for negotiations" with the SDF, whose main component, the Kurdish YPG, has mostly avoided conflict with Damascus in the war. "All of these weapons are designated for use against the State of Israel, and it's our right, as part of the right of self-defense, to prevent their production or transfer".

The Jewish state has argued that the lifting of United Nations sanctions under the nuclear deal in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear activities allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and though proxy groups such as Lebanon's Hizballah militia.

The US has a military presence in Manbij and has provided military support to the YPG in the fight against IS, causing anger among Turkish officials.

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During the security meeting Netanyahu spoke of the IDF's response to Tuesday's unprecedented barrage of rocket from the Gaza Strip and said Israel dealt "the harshest blow" in years to the militants. "It has a terror network that is spread throughout the world. If not, we're going to resort... to liberating those areas by force", Assad added. We can't exactly ask Israel to jump into this battle openly.

The decades-long tensions between the countries have further escalated after the Israeli Air Force's attack on dozens of what it called "Iranian targets" in Syria earlier in May.

The southwest is of concern to the United States, which previous year brokered a "de-escalation" deal with Jordan and President Bashar al-Assad's Russian allies, which has largely contained the war near the frontier with Israel.

In an interview with Russia Today, Mr Assad said he did not have a nickname or insult for Mr Trump: "This is not my language, so, I can not use similar language".

"They're definitely looking to establish an arrangement", said Yury Barmin, an analyst of Russian policy in the Middle East at the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow.

Assad said Iran's presence in Syria was limited to officers who were assisting the Syrian army. "The Americans should leave, somehow they are going to leave", he said.

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