Top Iranian official: US threats won’t force Iran to leave Syria
A senior envoy to Iran’s leader says Tehran has no intention of leaving Syria despite U.S. and Israeli pressure.
The statement from Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, follows his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Velayati emphasized that Iranian forces are ‘only stationed’ in Syria at Assad’s behest. “Iran and Russia helped purify 80% of Syrian territory from terror,” he said.
It comes days before Monday’s summit in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, where the issue of the Iranian presence in Syria is set to top the agenda.
Both the U.S. and Israel want Iran to pull out of Syria. But Russia has warned it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.
A possible deal could see Syrian troops replacing Iranian forces and its proxy Hezbollah militia in the areas near the Israeli Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that its ally Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad would be safe from Israel, but Moscow should encourage Iranian forces quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.
The message, which the official said Netanyahu conveyed in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, came just hours after Israel shot down a Syrian drone that had penetrated its airspace.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Tuesday the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in the Syrian Golan Heights not to try to establish a terror network on the border with Israel.