'Russia, Israel, and US agree - Iran must leave Syria'

NSA John Bolton says Putin doesn't have 'same interests' as Iran, agrees with US, Israeli demand that Iran withdraw forces from Syria.

David Rosenberg ,

Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu
Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu
Kobi Gideon\GPO

The Russian government is in agreement with the US and Israel over a key issue regarding the future of the Assad regime and the Kremlin’s support for the Syrian military, US National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed on Sunday.

During an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Bolton said that Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the demand by the US and Israel that all Iranian forces be withdrawn from Syrian territory.

Iran, a long-time ally of the Assad regime, has deployed elements of the Quds Force – a branch of the Revolutionary Guards – inside of Syria to bolster Assad against rebel forces.

But the Quds Force has also been used for special operations against Syria’s neighbor to the southwest – Israel. In February, an armed, unmanned Iranian aircraft penetrated Israeli airspace from Syria, before being shot down by IDF forces.

In May, Iranian forces stationed in Syria launched roughly two dozen rockets at northern Israel, prompting retaliatory attacks by the IDF.

Since then, Israel has pressed Russia to use its influence with Damascus and Tehran to push for the full withdrawal of Iranian forces in Syria.

While in the past, Russian officials have backed the withdrawal of Iranian troops from the Israeli border, it remained unclear whether the Kremlin would pressure Tehran to remove the Quds Force from Syrian entirely.

On Sunday, however, John Bolton told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that Vladimir Putin shared the “objective” of removing all Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias from Syrian territory.

“The objective of the United States, of Israel — President Putin said it was Russia’s objective — is to get Iran, Iranian forces, Iranian militias, Iranian surrogates out of the offensive operations they’re in in both Syria and Iraq, and, frankly, to end Iran’s support for Hezbollah.”

“President Putin is very candid in his comments to President Trump, he was to me as well,” continued Bolton. “He said he didn’t have the same interest as Iran in Syria. And that he’d like to talk about ways to get out of them.”

According to Bolton, Iran’s ability to conduct long-range operations as been significantly reduced due to America’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, and the return of sanctions on Tehran.

“The president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has put a real crimp into the Iranian economy. I think they’re feeling it and their capability for the Quds Force or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to conduct offensive operations [has been reduced].”

In July, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Putin at the Kremlin, urging the Russian leader to back Israel’s demand that Iran withdraw from Syria.

Five days later, President Trump and Putin met at a summit in Helsinki, Finland. According to a report by Bloomberg News, Putin agreed in principle that Iran should exit Syria, a US official said.