A senior Iranian official said that his country’s military will continue to be involved in Syria as long as the Damascus regime wants its help, the Mehr news agency reported Tuesday.
Ali Shamkhani, a member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, made the remarks in an interview published a day earlier by a Tehran-based international relations magazine.
His comments came the same day Israel carried out a series of airstrikes on Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian air defense units, in response to a rocket fired from Syria at the Israeli Golan Heights, allegedly by Iranian forces. The clash followed a rare daytime strike attributed to Israel on weapons depots in and around Damascus on Sunday.
Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. Jerusalem has vowed to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and has sought help from the US and Russia in getting the Iranians to pull their military out of the country. Russia, along with Iran and its military proxies, are fighting on behalf of the Damascus regime in the country’s civil war, now in its eighth year.
Shamkhani said that as long as the Syrian and Iraqi governments continue to ask for Iran’s help in defeating “terror,” it will provide assistance. The Syrian regime and its allies refer to opposition forces as terrorists.
Instead of “exporting terrorism to Syria” and imposing their own ideas, Western countries should let the Syrian people speak for themselves, he said.
He also criticized US hostility toward Iran’s involvement in the two countries, saying that Tehran was there to defeat the Islamic State terror group and prevent the killing of innocent people.
Shamkhani lamented that while the US condemns Iranian involvement in Syria, it remains silent about Yemen, where airstrikes by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition have reportedly killed thousands of civilians during attacks on Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Israel responded to Monday’s missile attack on the Golan by pounding both Iranian military targets in Syria and the Syrian air defense systems that fired on its jets.
Amid fears of escalation, Iran’s air force chief said in the hours that followed that his country was “impatient” to eliminate Israel in a war.
In the weeks since US President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement in December that he will pull US ground forces out of Syria, Israel has become more open in admitting that it carries out raids on Iranian assets in the country, which, it says, destroyed thousands of targets in the last few years.