The top feature story of Iran’s Tasnim News Agency today analyzes President Donald Trump’s Thursday remarks about the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The outlet, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), believes that Trump intends to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and therefore wants American troops to leave Syria as a “preemptive” measure to ensure they will not be vulnerable to any Iranian retaliation. “Should the remarks by the American president about an imminent exit from Syria be analyzed as this country’s concern about the safety of its forces and interests in the region after the cancellation of the JCPOA [the Iran deal], or [in light of] the end of the combat mission against Daesh [ISIS]?” wrote Tasnim.
The IRGC mouthpiece also opines that Trump’s announcement is aimed at placating Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Washington’s ties with Moscow and Ankara have reached their nadir lately.
The outlet adds that Trump’s announcement may be part of broader agreements with Turkey and Russia, whereas it is in contradiction with popular views that the Trump administration plans to push back against Iranian and Russian influence in Syria.
Comment: During a speech in Ohio on Thursday, Trump said US forces would leave Syria “very soon” as ISIS is now militarily defeated. "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon." He added: "Let the other people take care of it now."
If Trump follows through with the plan, Iran and its regional allies will welcome the decision. With ISIS on the verge of defeat, Tehran and its regional proxies see the presence of US troops in Syria and Iraq as the biggest obstacle to their growing influence in the region and have made it a priority to oust the US from both countries. In addition, ISIS remnants and al Qaeda-affiliated groups will also see the US withdrawal as an opportunity to reconstitute themselves in parts of Syria and the broader region.
Furthermore, Trump’s call for a speedy withdrawal is also at odds with his administration’s overall Syria policy. In January, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said American troops would remain in Syria to ensure ISIS would not reemerge, defend America’s allies in northern and eastern Syria, counter Iran’s growing influence and presence, and impact the political process for a negotiated settlement to end the Syrian war.