Top Iranian official warns: Syria will be America’s ‘second Vietnam’
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Top Iranian official warns: Syria will be America’s ‘second Vietnam’

Under pressure to withdraw its forces, Tehran tries to turn spotlight on US

Syrian president Bashar Assad, left, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (SANA via AP)
Syrian president Bashar Assad, left, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (SANA via AP)

A top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that the US presence in Syria will turn the country into America’s “second Vietnam,” according to the official Fars news agency.

“The Americans themselves have created the ISIL [Islamic State] and the al-Nusra in Syria and now they have come onto the scene and occupied Eastern Euphrates,” Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying to reporters in a Tehran meeting on Wednesday.

“They should know that Syria and Eastern Euphrates will be another Vietnam for the US,” he reportedly added.

The comments came as Iran resists pressure to remove its own forces from Syria and accuses the US in turn of digging in to support its allies in the war-riven country.

A Syrian war monitor group said Thursday that Hezbollah units deployed in Syria were pulling back dozens of kilometers from the Israeli border in response to a request from Russia, but that Iran was refusing to do the same with its forces in the area.

US Vice President Mike Pence greets American troops on January 21, 2018, near the Syrian border. (AP Photo/Ken Thomas)

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing what it described as “reliable sources,” said that the Lebanese terror group and its allied gunmen have begun withdrawing to positions 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the border, and a similar distance from the Jordanian-Syrian border.

Russia, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have been providing military assistance to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as it battles against rebel groups in a civil war that is in its eighth year.

Israel has repeatedly said it wants Iran and the militias it is backing to withdraw from the border area, and recent media reports have said that Jerusalem had reached an agreement on the matter with Moscow.

The reported Hezbollah retreat came in response to a Russian demand that Iran and Hezbollah pull back, the Observatory said, and was the result of Moscow’s talks with “regional parties.”

However, the report said, Iran is refusing to pull back its own military forces from southern Syria unless there is a corresponding evacuation of US and international coalition forces from the al-Tanf base on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The US and its allies have been backing moderate rebel groups in the civil war as well as carrying out strikes against the Islamic State group.

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