An aide to Iran’s supreme leader condemned the United States’ unsolicited military presence in Syria, warning that the conflict in the country could become a second war similar to Vietnam, for Washington.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior international aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the United States for creating the terrorist group ISIS and said the continued presence of the US military in Syria would result in a catastrophe.
“The Americans themselves created ISIS and Al-Nusra in Syria and now they have stepped in and occupied the Eastern Euphrates,” Velayati said in Tehran on Wednesday, as quoted by the Fars news agency. He added,
“They should know that Syria and the East Euphrates will be another Vietnam for the US,”
Thousands of US special forces are believed to be involved with Kurdish proxy forces in eastern Syria – although the US military has not been invited to operate within the country, and has no international mandate to do so. With the war against ISIS virtually complete, US-backed forces – aided by air support – currently occupy pockets of Syrian territory.
Tehran’s warnings come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in April that US forces were “positioning” in eastern Syria.
“The US has promised that its sole purpose was to repel Syrian terrorists, to defeat [the Daesh], but for all its claims, despite President Trump’s assertions, the US is positioning itself on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and has no intention to leave,” Lavrov said.
While the complexity of the conflict makes it a logistical nightmare for the occupation forces, experts question whether the United States will ever compromise enough ground forces to make its Syrian operations as catastrophic as the Vietnam War.
“Iraq after 2003 was more like a second Vietnam because the US had so many thousands of troops occupying the country and vulnerable to insurgent attacks,” Mark Almond, director of the UK Institute for Crisis Research, told RT.
“In Syria, Americans (British and French too) have far fewer troops on the ground – special forces – and have representatives to do the fighting, so the capacity of local forces to inflict heavy or constant casualties is relatively low. The US Air Force is willing to attack under suspicion any ground forces it deems ‘threatening’ – a vague and wide category – and there is little or nothing that Syrian forces or local militias can do against US planes, “he said.
However, Almond noted that without more troops on the ground, the United States and its allies will not be able to control Syrian territory in the long run. With Washington’s policy on Syria constantly changing – US President Donald Trump announced in April that he wanted to take the troops home, but now they are apparently maintained, from Al-Tanf to Manbij – the question now is whether the Pentagon is considering a presence in Syria.
“The Iranian official speaks theoretically: if the US continues to increase its presence in Syria, it could become another Vietnam for them,” said Vladimir Batyuk, head of the Political and Military Research Unit of the Russian Academy of Sciences at the U.S. and Canada Institute.
“If the United States is to grow or not, it is a big issue.” There is no consensus in Washington on this issue, and if US President Trump were the only one to decide, US troops would leave Syria tomorrow. There are other powerful figures in Washington who are convinced that the US presence in Syria is necessary. At this point, the US is unlikely to increase its presence if the situation does not change dramatically,” he said.
Batyuk commented that since Syria’s stability is a top priority for Tehran, Velayati’s statement should be seen as an alert to Washington that “its misjudged actions can have far-reaching consequences.” But for now, it is unlikely that thousands of American soldiers in Syria will be going home in sacks of corpses – mostly because there are only about 2,000 of them there to begin with.
“At this time, there are 2,000 US special forces in Syria. Of course, it is not enough for any military operation in Syria,” Batyuk said. “The US supports the Kurds and so-called moderate rebels, who are in fact Islamist disguised.” The US could use air support from the anti-Daesh coalition for some purposes, but not much else. Therefore, it is unlikely that the concerns of Tehran’s officials materialize.”