Khamenei Adviser: Iran Coordinates Military Presence in Syria With Russia

Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg

Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg

A senior advisor to Iran's Leader says the country's military presence in Syria does not hinge on what Israel wants.

Iran's role in Syria will be a key topic at an upcoming summit between Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Finland's capital Helsinki on Monday.

Ali Akbar Velayati, while visiting Moscow on July 13, also rejected US and Israeli demands that Iran's military get out of Syria, saying that will happen only if the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asks Iran to go.

Velayati represents a wide circle of conservative politicians in Iran who prefer to deepen relations with Russian Federation and China instead of having close ties with European countries, unlike the years-long orientation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's foreign policy work.

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Israel has pressed hard for the removal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, especially as the Syrian government has reclaimed territory close to the Israeli border along the Golan Heights. Washington says it will reimpose sanctions and has told other countries to halt all imports of Iranian oil from November 4 or face United States financial measures.

President Bashar al-Assad, with crucial military and political assistance from Iran and Russian Federation, has recaptured around 60 percent of the country, including its main cities, putting an end to any serious talk of regime change in Damascus.

Though Iran has only a small number of forces in Syria, they've become an increasingly contentious issue because of Israel's anger. "We will deal with the American presence from Syria to Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and north Africa".

Velayati met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Syrian situation on July 12 one day after Putin met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he called on Putin to urge Iran to leave Syria.

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"A public deal that accepts Assad in return for limiting Iranian influence implicitly if not explicitly gives him some legitimacy", Kamel said.

Would Iran accept a deal? Two other main companies of Russian Federation namely Rosneft and Gazprom Neft have also started negotiations with the Oil Ministry and the value of their deals with Iran can rise up to $10 billion, he added. The 2011 Daraa protests and the Syrian government's crackdown were widely considered to have helped spark the armed rebellion that once saw opposition fighters in control of most of the country. Velayati was speaking at a forum in Moscow.

Last month, Israel fired a missile at a drone that approached its airspace near the Syrian frontier, and in February it shot down what it said was an Iranian drone that entered its airspace.

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