US envoy: Iran must stop using Syria to threaten regional neighbors

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Speaking to Al Arabiya English from Jordan’s Dead Sea region, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said there was a consensus between Washington, the European Union and the Arab world on pressuring Iran to stop using Syria as a platform to threaten regional neighbors.

“The Iranian regime is absolutely isolated on this question, that idea that the Iranian regime would use Syria in order to establish power projection platforms that it can use to threaten Syria’s neighbors in an unprecedentedly destabilizing way,” Rayburn said.

“This is something the entire international community rejects. It is something that the US, the European Union countries and the Arab world are all in agreement about using the tool at our disposals, such as economic and political pressure tools and political isolation to try to push back on,” he added.

Rayburn also spoke on the reported crimes committed by the Assad regime in its own prisons and said that leaked photos showed something that looked “straight out of the Nazi death camps.”

“The documentary evidence and photos of the incredible atrocities that the Assad regime was carrying out in its prisons in particular, (was) something that looked straight out of the Nazi death camps from the Second World War,” Rayburn told Al Arabiya English.

The US Special Envoy was referring to the Caesar Act named after a Syrian defector who smuggled out tens of thousands of photos taken between May 2011 and August 2013 which showed at least 6,786 separate individuals who died in government custody.

Rayburn, who was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), added that UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria, was Washington’s “bible and roadmap” in solving the conflict.

“There’s a quite well-defined roadmap that we can follow in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 which lays out a political process that can result in differently-constituted government and all of the milestones are built-in and well-defined. It has international buy-in already from the Security Council and from abroad, swathes of the international community,” he said.

A day earlier, Rayburn was speaking as part of an Al Arabiya-sponsored panel discussion on the “Reconciliation and Reconstruction” efforts in Syria and Iraq after the defeat of ISIS. The US Special Envoy said that while the US-led coalition was successful in destroying the physical caliphate of ISIS, he admitted that it was not the “the end of the story with respect to Daesh (ISIS).”

“There has to be a follow-up phase to keep the pressure on Daesh to help stabilize local communities so that there is no room for Daesh to make a resurgence and return, which we’ve seen their predecessors do in the past,” he said while using the Arabic acronym of ISIS.

When asked whether there was waning interest from the international community regarding Syria given that it was not an oil-rich country, Rayburn said he disagreed. “It really doesn’t matter because Syria is so important strategically. You can’t really have instability on one side of the Mediterranean and expect to have stability on the other sides,” Rayburn said.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that the international community doesn’t care about Syria. Everywhere we go we get a high-level of interest and investment in trying to get a peaceful solution into the problem,” Rayburn added.

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