Diplomacy

TIP CEO: U.S. Must Show Russia that a Permanent Iranian Presence in Syria is Unacceptable

By withdrawing from Syria too soon, the United States would effectively hand over the country to Iran and Russia, risking a catastrophic “strategic collapse in a region long deemed vital to U.S. interests,” Joshua S. Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, warned in an op-ed published in The Hill on Tuesday.

“A lack of coherent strategy toward Syria is strengthening our adversaries and weakening our allies,” Block warned and “the power vacuum would immeasurably strengthen Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his evil regime propped up by his patrons Iran and Russia.”

In Block’s view, “whatever the debate over the JCPOA — the nuclear agreement signed between Iran, six world powers and the European Union in 2015 — a robust consensus in Congress is needed that Iran’s military role in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere must be countered.”

Israel and America’s Arab allies have long warned that Iran’s growing influence in Syria is part of a plan to build “a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea,” which Block says would destabilize “the entire region from the ruins of Syria to the Yemeni desert.”

Last week, President Vladimir Putin of Russia met with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts to determine the future of Syria, a development Block warned “should send chills down our spine.” In his view “without a solid military stronghold in Syria, America’s ability to counter the Terrible Trio’s sinister ambitions would be put at severe risk.”

Block said he understand why Americans want out of Syria but cautioned that “the consequences of a U.S. decision to disengage in the region must not be underestimated.” He charged: “Such a move could easily result in greater devastation than the choice to take action. When the Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons against civilians with impunity, protected by Russia and Iran, that line has long been crossed.”

Block acknowledges that no easy options are left in Syria and “it’s about mitigating damage.” The solution he offers is for “America and its allies — the EU, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Arab states — to drill home to Russia that a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria is unacceptable.”

“The United States needs to develop leverage to get Russia to tell the Iranians to leave Syria, and the best way to achieve that is to make clear to Moscow that we won’t leave before the Iranians are out of the picture,” he explained. “Anything short of that is not up for debate.”

Block argued that America shouldn’t face those challenges alone and “should call upon our allies to increase their financial contributions — and to contribute more operationally.” He concluded: “The enemies we face are not just America’s enemies. They are enemies of the free world.”

[Photo: ali javid / YouTube]