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Iranian Media Refute Israel’s Claim That Tehran is Scaling Down Its Presence in Syria

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Previously, outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennet commented that Iran “has begun the withdrawal process from Syria,” his uncorroborated-by-evidence statement coming in the wake of earlier reports of Israeli officials suggesting there was a scaling down of Tehran’s presence in the country.

An Iranian military source has been cited by Fars News Agency as refuting earlier statements made by outgoing Israeli Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett, that Tehran was reducing its presence in Syria.

“There has been no change in the quantity and quality of Iran’s advisory presence in Syria… We will stay in Syria as long as the Syrian government needs the help of the Iranian advisers,” the well-informed military source was quoted as saying.

While emphasizing that Naftali Bennett’s allegations are “an attempt to fill his empty record of any achievement,” the source underscored that Iran’s presence in Syria was the result of an official request of the legitimate Syrian government, seeking help in combating terrorism in this country.


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In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran. File photo.

The source was also cited by Tasnim News Agency as adding that the outgoing Israeli Defense Minister’s statements “are similar to the continuing allegations of the Zionist entity regarding the implementation of successful military operations against Iranian forces in Syria or cyberattacks on various installations in Iran, which are far from reality.”

Earlier, Special Assistant to the President of the Iranian Parliament for International Affairs, Hussein Amir Abdullahian, said in an interview with Al-Alam TV on Sunday that there was “no justification for the Islamic Republic to reduce the number of its forces in Syria”, stressing that “the Americans wanted to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and topple the political system in Syria, but they failed, and today they send messages to President Assad and offer him agreements.”


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Photo : Syrian President’s press service

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Hussein Amir Abdullahian concluded by emphasizing that “the Iranian advisory presence will continue in Syria as long as the Syrian government requests that from Tehran”.

The response from the Iranian side followed a statement by outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday that Iran had started withdrawing its forces from Syria.

While not offering any evidence to corroborate his assertions, in his farewell speech, quoted by Reuters, Bennett said:

“Iran is significantly reducing the scope of its forces in Syria and even evacuating a number of bases… Though Iran has begun the withdrawal process from Syria, we need to complete the work. It’s in reach.”

 Warning that unless pressure on Tehran is preserved the trend might reverse, Naftali Bennett called upon his successor, Benny Gantz, to continue to toe the line.

Earlier in the month, US officials also weighed in on reports of a downscaling of Iranian presence in Syria.

In this photo released on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, missiles are fired from city of Kermanshah in western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria.

Special Representative on Syria James Jeffrey was cited by Newsweek as telling reporters Washington saw “some Iranian movement around Syria pulling back from areas where the Israelis have struck them” as well as “a withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias” from other countries.

There has not yet been any official response from Tehran or Syria to Bennett’s comments.

Iran, which is struggling under US economic sanctions, has repeatedly insisted its military presence in Syria is at the invitation of Bashar Assad’s government, vowing to remain in the country as long as its help is needed.

 

 

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Australia Raises Concerns Over Beijing’s Military Presence in South China Sea Amid US-China Tensions

New Delhi (Sputnik): The South China Sea remains a strategically important route for access to Southeast Asia. While China claims that it enjoys sovereign rights over much of the relevant waters, the tensions continue to grow as the White House accuses Beijing of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic in order to strengthen its presence in the region.

Following the US, now Australia has raised concerns over the presence of Chinese military vessels in the disputed South China Sea.

Referring to the increasing presence of Chinese vessels in the area, the Indian website The Economic Times quoted Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell as calling it: “actions to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities and the dangerous and coercive use of coast guard vessels and so called maritime militias”. 

Tensions in the region have grown as Washington also intensified its military activities in 2020 under the pretext of upholding freedom of navigation in the region. The South China Sea remains disputed, as China claims ownership over significant patches of the area, which is countered by four other nations. Beijing has also built military installations in the region, insisting that they are purely of a defensive nature.

Its vessels and aircraft will continue their operations in the region and support other nations doing the same, The Economic Times quoted O’Farrell as saying.

The White House has also accused Chinese authorities of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to strengthen their regional hold. “The People’s Republic of China is attempting to use the regional focus on COVID[-19] to assertively advance its own interests”, US Navy Captain Michael Kafka, a spokesperson for the American military’s Indo-Pacific Command, told CNN.

The Australian high commissioner to India, who urged “all parties to take meaningful steps to ease tensions and build trust, including through dialogue”, has said that all territorial disputes need to be settled in accordance with international law and acts of coercion could lead to escalation.

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