US calls on Damascus to restrain Iran-backed militias in Syria

Syrian regime 'has allowed Iran and terrorist groups including Hezbollah to use its international airports for military purposes', US ambassador to UN says

The dome of a mosque is seen amongst satellite dishes on the rooftops of home and apartment blocks in the Syrian capital Damascus, on June 26, 2013. AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)
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The US called on Damascus on Monday to restrain Iran-backed militias in Syria and stop the transit of foreign weapons and fighters through its territory.

“The Syrian regime has allowed Iran and terrorist groups including Hezbollah to use its international airports for military purposes,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council.

She called on the Syrian regime to “stop playing the victim card” and said it was fully within its power to prevent Iran from using civilian airports to transport weapons and fighters that are “then used to threaten neighbouring states”.

US fighter jets on Friday carried out precision strikes against two sites in eastern Syria used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and groups it backs, the Pentagon said.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield said that the strikes were carefully focused and were in response to prior attacks on American troops. US forces have been the focus of more than a dozen attacks in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks.

“We've made clear that we will respond to attacks on our own personnel and facilities in Syria or against US interests and where appropriate exercise our right to self-defence, forcefully proportionately and in a manner that minimises civilian harm,” said the US ambassador.

Also addressing the 15-member Security Council, Geir Pederson, UN’s special envoy to Syria, warned that the Syrian people are not only contending with violence within their own country but also facing the alarming possibility of a broader escalation of the Israel-Gaza war.

Mr Pederson said that it was “indefensible that Syria seems to be treated as a free-for-all space”, in which different actors can settle scores with impunity.

“Decisions that are outside of Syrian hands cannot be allowed to drag Syria into another war,” he said.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 4:25 PM