April 30, 2019
US Central Command head Gen Kenneth McKenzie said on Saturday that his forces will have the necessary resources to stop Iran from “taking any action that might be dangerous,” Sky News Arabia reported.
The Abu Dhabi-based television channel cited Gen McKenzie as saying: “We communicate with our allies and friends in the region to ensure that we are united against the Iranian threat,” according to alerts in Arabic by the channel.
“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous. We will be able to respond effectively,” he added.
The US general also said that reducing the number of US troops in Syria will be done cautiously.
“We recognise that, that’s the guidance in which we are operating. That will be something that we will look at very carefully as we go forward,” the general said.
In Iraq, Gen McKenzie said the presence of US forces will remain “long-term” in order to combat terrorism.
“America is working to support the State Department and diplomats in Iraq, and will focus on the counter-terror mission.”
Gen McKenzie said the best solution to combat terror groups is to establishing “effective local forces”. He pointed out that US force are situated in Yemen to combat Al Qaeda and to assist US allies in the region.
The general assumed Central Command leadership from from General Joseph Votel in late March.
Last December, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of all American forces from Syria but backed down after shock from allies in the region and the West. There was a concern that the withdrawal of American troops could destabilise a delicate status-quo that is emerging and lead to a new wave of conflict in the country.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces who did much of the ground fighting against ISIS expressed concern that if American troops left then Turkey – who views some of the Kurdish groups that make up a major part of the multi-ethnic force – would launch a cross border offensive after rising rhetoric from Ankara.
Also, counter-terrorism experts also warned that while the ground war against ISIS was completed, the militant group remained a potent force and with SDF forces already overstretched and continuing to battle sleeper cells, US forces leaving would allow the militants to resurface.
US officials also said that American forces were needed to ensure that Iran did not spread its presence further in war-torn Syria where it heavily backs Damascus.
In February, the US said it was keeping some 400 of the original 2,000 soldiers on the ground to maintain a foothold and support local partners going forwards.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Washington blacklisted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Mr Trump also demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, a move aimed at choking off Tehran’s oil revenues.
The US reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after Mr Trump pulled out of a 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Eight economies, including China and India, were granted waivers for six months, and several had expected those exemptions to be renewed.