United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson .
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEX BRANDON/POOL)
Iran must remove its military from Syria, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday while visiting Jordan as part of a week-long regional trip to discuss threats to the stability of the Middle East.
“We think Iran needs to withdraw its military, its militia from Syria, and allow the hope for a peace process to take hold in Geneva,” Tillerson said.
The Islamic Republic immediately shot back that it was the US that had to leave the Syrian theater.
Just one day before his arrival on Sunday, Israel shot down an Iranian made drone that was launched into its airspace from Syria.
Israel attacked the launch site in Syria, and an Israel Air Force F-16 jet was shot down. Its two crew members ejected in Israel.
“We are quite concerned about the recent incident involving Israel and Iranian assets inside of Syria, and I think this again illustrates why Iran’s presence in Syria is only destabilizing to the region,” Tillerson said.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said in response, “Iran’s military presence in Syria was based on invitation of the Syrian government.
“Those should leave Syria who are there without the permission of the Syrian legal government,” Velayati was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Tillerson, who heads to Beirut on Thursday, told reporters that Iran plays a destabilizing role in Lebanon as well.
“I will be going to Beirut tomorrow to meet with leaders in Beirut about Lebanon’s future. We support a free, democratic Lebanon free of influence of others, and we know that Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This is influence that we think is unhelpful in Lebanon’s long-term future,” Tillerson said.
In New York, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley attacked Iran, and defended Israel, during a Security Council debate on Syria.
“Iran was once again doing what it does – risking conflict, and testing the will of its neighbors and opponents to resist its aggression. Israel rightly took action to defend itself. The United States will always stand by our ally when confronted with provocations from Iran, Hezbollah or the Assad regime,” Haley said.Reuters contributed to this report.