U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s March 22 remark that the United States and its allies will remain engaged in Syria and Iraq long after the Islamic State is defeated has provoked an angry reaction in Iran. Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), denounced the “new war plan” and called for it to be “taken far out to sea and dumped into the deepest depths of the Atlantic Ocean.” In a lengthy article, entitled “,” Fars News wrote that Tillerson confirmed President Trump’s intention to set up safe zones in Syria and that the "Empire of Chaos" will keep it ground troops in Iraq over the long term.
It added: “The same assumption could be made about the plan to occupy Iraq permanently. Pentagon officials have been arguing for a more or less permanent deployment, the idea of keeping occupying troops in Iraq on the pretext of preventing ISIL from ever coming back. Tillerson presents this open-ended deployment as a ‘stabilization’ operation, while admitting that dedicated significant military resources to post-war Iraq for the sake of stability would not amount to ‘nation-building,’ something we are not surprised to hear at all.” It warned that if Washington implements this strategy, the number of civilian casualties will increase, Americans will be seen as occupiers, and the conflicts in the two countries as well as regional proxy wars will become even worse.
Comment: The article in Fars News Agency, which represents the views of the I.R.G.C., shows Tehran is worried that the Trump administration may increase its military involvement in Iraq and Syria. Such a decision, from Tehran’s perspective, would also increase the role of Iran’s regional rivals – particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey – in Iraq and Syria at the expense of Iranian agenda and interests in the region. The reaction from the I.R.G.C. outlet also highlights the potential for dangerous competition – if not confrontation – between the United States and Iran in Iraq once their common enemy Islamic State is defeated.
Iranian leaders and media outlets have repeatedly warned the Trump administration that “the consequences will be dire” if it establishes safe zones in Syria. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani has that creating safe zones would prolong the Syrian war and result into the disintegration of the country. Donald Trump had repeatedly promised during the election campaign that he would establish safe zones inside Syria or in one of its neighbors to protect civilians instead of allowing Syrian refugees to come to the United States. And after he took office, he reiterated on January 27 that he "." Tehran is worried that the establishment of safe zones in Syria would strengthen the alliance between Washington and regional Sunni Arab states at the expense of Iran’s regional agenda and interests.