US to press Russia on Iranian presence in Syria

US plans to stress to Russia at Jerusalem summit that Iranian forces and their proxies have to leave Syria.

Ben Ariel,

John Bolton
John Bolton
Reuters

A senior White House official said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that the US plans to stress to Russia during its trilateral national security advisers summit in Jerusalem this month that Iranian forces and their proxies have to leave Syria, Axios reported.

The trilateral meeting between the national security advisers of Israel, the US and Russia in late June is an unprecedented event. The White House official said the main focus of the summit will be Syria and Iran's activities in Syria, Lebanon and the rest of the region.

Israel wants to use the summit to push the US and Russia closer together in order to get a deal on Syria that would push Iranian forces out of the country, noted Axios.

The White House official said on Tuesday that the US and Israel are waiting to hear what proposals Russia will bring to the meeting.

National security adviser John Bolton is going to stress during the summit that Iran is not playing any positive role in Syria or the region as a whole, according to the official. The official added that the Trump administration is very concerned with Iranian actions in Syria and supports Israeli airstrikes against Iranian military entrenchment in the country.

"We are sure the Iranians are not happy that this meeting is taking place and that the Israelis are publicly hosting the Americans and the Russians together in Jerusalem to talk about Iran. The fact the Russians are attending this meeting is important in itself," said the official.

While Iranian leaders deny that the Islamic Republic has a military presence in Syria, Iran is a key supporter of President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, having providing the regime with both financial aid and military advisers against a range of opposing forces since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Near the start of the Syrian civil war, it was reported that then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made clear last summer that Iran would withdraw its “military advisers” from Syria and Iraq only if their governments wanted it to.

Russia also has a strong military presence in Syria and is a close ally of Assad as well. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has held several meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the presence of Iran in Syria.




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