Well informed sources have said the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp Brigadier General Haj Qassem Soleimani sent a formal verbal message, via Russia, to the head of the US forces command in Syria, advising him to pull out all US forces to the last soldier “or the doors of hell will open up”.
“My message to the US military command: when the battle against ISIS will end, no American soldier will be tolerated in Syria. I advise you to leave by your own will or you will be forced to it,” said Soleimani to a Russian officer. Soleimani asked the Russian officer to make known the Iranian intentions towards the US: that they will be considered as forces of occupation if these decide to stay in northeast Syria where Kurds and Arab tribes cohabit together.
The Russians are not necessarily against the US presence and can adapt to this after defining the demarcation lines to avoid any clash, but Iran has a clear position and has decided not to abandon the Syrian President alone to face the US forces, if these stay behind.
Soleimani’s message to the US clearly indicated the promise of ‘surprise measures’ against the US: “You shall face soldiers and forces you have not experienced before in Syria and you will leave the country sooner or later.”
Russia conveyed to the US that Iran will stay in Syria as long as President Assad desires, and he insists on liberating the entire territory from all forces without exception. Russia confirmed to the US its intention to refrain from offering any air support to Iran and its allies in the case of attacks on US forces. From the Russian perspective, the Iran-US dispute is not its concern nor on its agenda.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week that he had sent a letter to Soleimani expressing his concern about Iran’s intention to attack American interests and “will hold Soleimani and Iran accountable for any attack in Iraq.”
Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aid to the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirmed Pompeo’s attempt to send a letter but said “Soleimani refused to read it or to take it because he has nothing further to add.”
Sources in the area believe it is not unlikely that Kurdish groups – operating in al-Hasaka (Syria’s northeastern province) and who are faithful to the government of Damascus – are willing to spearhead attacks against the US forces. Many of these groups remained loyal to Syria: they reject any occupation forces on its land or the partition of the country.
Meanwhile, Al-Hasaka 2018 is being widely compared to 1983 Beirut where hundreds of US Marines and French paratroopers were killed following double suicide attacks by Islamists in the Lebanese civil war. The multinational forces became hostile rather than peacekeepers and were pushed to hastily exit Lebanon as a consequence of this attack. The future could well mirror these past events.