Iran defends its military presence in Syria, asks US forces to leave


The drone was subsequently shot down by an Israeli helicopter; Israel proceeded to launch raids in Syria targeting the command center that Iran operated the drone from.

Reacting to shooting down of Israeli F-16 warplane by Syrian forces, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) had praised the Damascus move, saying that (Israeli) regime can no longer carry out hostile action against Syria with impunity.

Iran´s involvement in Syria, including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat and has mounted regular attacks into Syria. It appears that US advisers were working there.

A pro-government military alliance in Syria said in a statement that Israel would see a severe and serious response to its "terrorism" from now on. The question now is whether the Trump administration will go further.

In January, a US -led coalition unveiled a plan to set up a new border force of 30,000 Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, raising alarms in the region that the White House may be helping to cement an autonomous Kurdish enclave that could further divide the country.

Hence the Iranian determination to follow through with this strategy despite their clear understanding of Israel's red lines. "In general the parties are not looking for a war".

How many military forces in Syria are actually under Iranian influence?

Our orders have been cut.

If Tehran did, it would be an act of monumental stupidity.

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The downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syrian air defenses on February 10 led to speculations about the opening of a new front in the Civil War.

Moreover, in recent months Iranian policy - suspending patrol boat harassment of USA warships - appears crafted to ease tensions and provide no new causes for Trump to abandon the nuclear deal Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani regards as his legacy.

Turkey opened a new front in Syria's almost 7-year-old war on January 20, launching an offensive against the US -backed Syrian Kurdish militia in the northwestern enclave of Afrin.

The U.S. military weighed in as well. 17 months later, Assad's forces have regained the upper hand in the civil war and ISIS has been basically defeated in that country. The U.S. response was a barrage of air and artillery strikes that killed 100 soldiers. This turned out to be the largest Israeli attack on targets in Syria since the civil war began in 2010.

Israel, which in most cases would support a policy of stability, finds itself in a peculiar position: Most of its leverage in Syria comes in its potential for disruption.

The U.S. and Turkey, allies for six decades, with the largest armies in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, may soon be staring down each other's gun barrels. The repeated air strikes by the Israeli military in Syria seems to be targeting convoys and storage facilities possibly involved in such a transfer of weapons.

It was reported that Israel "intended to continue destroying the rest of the missile launchers, but Netanyahu ordered a halt to the operation following a telephone conversation with Putin", in which he was informed that Moscow opposes "the escalation and warns against harming its interests in Syria". What would victory look like? In the last few weeks, the proxy conflicts between Israel and Iran and Turkey and the Kurds have heated up in particular.

Commenting on the Russian stance on the confrontation Lieberman said it shows that "each side has its own interests".

Commentary by Jake Novak, senior columnist.