Iran Demands Full Withdrawal of American Forces from Middle East

CAMP BOST, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 11: U.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost on September 11, 2017 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. About 300 marines are currently deployed in Helmand Province in a train, advise, and assist role supporting local Afghan security forces. Currently the …
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif this week demanded that the United States pull its troops out of the Persian Gulf region, arguing that such a move is “fully in line” with the interest of America and the world.

His comments, made via his official Twitter account on Monday, came amid skyrocketing U.S.-Iran tensions, mainly stemming from Tehran’s decision to shoot down an American drone this month. The incident is bringing the two countries closer to a military conflict. Both have warned they are ready for war. “[U.S. President Donald Trump] is 100% right that the US military has no business in the Persian Gulf. Removal of its forces is fully in line with interests of US and the world,” Zarif wrote. He went on to say the Trump administration “is not concerned with US interests — they despise diplomacy, and [have a] thirst for war.”

Since May, President Trump has approved the deployment of an additional 2,500 American troops and military equipment to the Middle East. Before his decision, there were an estimated 70,000 American troops deployed to the region, including about 5,200 in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria, the Associated Press (AP) reported in May.  The Trump administration has begun to withdraw some troops from Syria, but it plans to leave a residual force to combat the lingering Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) threat and Iran. The Islamic Republic maintains a presence in Syria in support of the Russian-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad. In Iraq, American troops are already on heightened alert stemming from the threat posed by Iran-allied Shiite militias in the country. Referring to the menace posed by Iran-allied fighters in the region, U.S. Central Command — charged with American military activities in and around the Middle East — declared in May:

U.S. Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve [OIR], has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq.

OIR refers to the international mission against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Factions from the Baghdad-sanctioned umbrella organization for predominantly Shiite militias in Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have repeatedly threatened to push out American forces from Iraq. The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) warned in November 2018 that the PMF and other Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria pose a threat to American troops in the region. U.S. officials have already accused Iran of carrying out attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq. Punishing economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are fueling the ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States.