(November 21, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Iranian forces are in Syria not just to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, “but to carry out their own long-term regional hegemonial program and to in some respects subvert the authority of the Syrian state just like they have done in Lebanon, just like they have done in Yemen, just like they’ve attempted to do in Iraq,” U.S. Special Representative for Syrian Engagement James Jeffrey said on Tuesday.
In a teleconference briefing with reporters from across the Middle East, Jeffrey mentioned U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, which “lays out a political process forward that would allow half the Syrian population, 12 million people, to return to their homes, because these people have either fled abroad or they fled to other areas of Syria. That is critical to bringing this conflict to an end. It is critical to preserving security in the region.”
Jeffrey’s remarks are consistent with growing reports of extensive Iranian efforts to turn Syria, ruled by Alawite Assad and largely Sunni Muslim, into a Shiite-majority country. Last week, Iran announced it was opening another university in Syria, which was set to join the list of schools it already operates in the country.
Jeffrey said that although many in the international community believe the war in Syria has come to an end, a flare-up is possible any minute.
He emphasized that Israel-Iran tensions are the most cause for concern, followed by Jordan and Iran.
“For the moment, Jordan’s major concern, as Jordanian officials talk to us, is both Iran’s movement into regions close to Jordan, and, of course, the remnants of terrorist forces along the Jordanian border. Jordan has suffered terribly from terrorist attacks and we are committed to its security,” he said.
“In terms of Israel, it is even more dramatic because of the deployment of long-range Iranian weapon systems into Syria. They have been used over Israeli territory twice in this past year, and the Israeli response to that led to the set of events culminating in the shooting down of a Russian plane by Syrian missiles and this is the kind of perhaps accidental, perhaps deliberate escalation that we are working night and day to prevent by trying to again de-escalate the conflict and revitalize the political process.”
Meanwhile, the European Union is said to be weighing sanctions on Iran over foiled attacks Tehran planned to carry out in Denmark and France after representatives from both Copenhagen and Paris briefed E.U. ministers on their findings.
According to the European Council’s website, E.U. foreign ministers on Tuesday “expressed their full solidarity to those member states which witnessed unacceptable behavior from Iranian actors on European soil, and affirmed their readiness to consider a targeted appropriate response.”
Denmark recalled its ambassador to Iran in late October after it accused Tehran of plotting to kill three Iranian dissidents living in the Scandinavian country.
A Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested Oct. 21 on suspicion of helping an unspecified Iranian intelligence service “to act in Denmark” and of alleged involvement in the assassination plot, said Danish Security and Intelligence Service director Finn Borch Andersen.
Earlier that month, French authorities on Tuesday froze the assets of the internal security section of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, as well as those of two Iranians, and all but pointed a finger at Tehran as the force behind an alleged plot to bomb an Iranian exile group’s rally near Paris in June.
Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad, revealed in July that it had tipped off French authorities before the planned Iranian terrorist attack on French soil.