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May 11, 2018 1:09 pm

Warning of Iranian Encroachment on Israel’s Border, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Urges Trump Administration to Release Syria Stabilization Funds

avatar by Ben Cohen

Iranian Gen. Qassem Solaimani – commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force – pictured in the Syrian region of Deir Ezzor in 2017. Photo: File.

Iran’s attempt to cement a land corridor for its military forces and their militia allies all the way to Israel’s border is a key reason why the US must urgently resume stabilization funding for war-ravaged Syria, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Friday.

President Donald Trump’s administration placed a freeze on $200 million of funding for humanitarian and infrastructure programs in Syria in April. On Friday, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a statement urging the immediate resumption of the funding on the grounds of national security.

“It’s in our vital interest to push for an end to the violence and suffering in Syria,” Royce said. “Wednesday’s missile attack on Israel by Iranian forces in Syria threatens to bring a new chapter of chaos to this bloody conflict. That’s why I’ve long raised alarm about Tehran’s work to build a land bridge to amass fighters and missiles near Israel’s border.”

Among the organizations facing a dramatic cut in funds is the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense force with 3,000 medical volunteers working in rebel-held areas of the country that has received $33 million from the US since 2013.

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“We must work with our partners and use all the tools of diplomacy — including financial pressure and US assistance — to help change conditions on the ground,” Royce said. “The administration should start by immediately resuming stabilization funding, including to the White Helmets, who are providing life-saving aid to thousands of civilians.”

Royce argued that it was in the vital interest of the US to counter Iran’s “malign influence” in Syria. Thousands of Iranian troops and fighters from proxy Shia terrorist organizations including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have fought on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s behalf during the seven-year-long war, granting the Islamic Revolutionary GuardsCorps (IRGC) an unprecedented land-based opportunity to strike directly against Israel.

“Countering Iran’s malign influence must be a key part of a broader US strategy toward Syria,” Royce remarked. “Support from Tehran — as well as Moscow — has fueled Bashar al-Assad’s horrific abuses against the Syrian people.”

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