Iran won’t withdraw from Syria unless President Bashar Assad asks it to leave, a senior Iranian diplomat told reporters in Russia, one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened military action to force Iran’s departure.
“They are there at the Syrian government’s request to resolve issues that the Syrian people have been facing,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Jaberi Ansari said Tuesday.
Russia and Iran have cooperated to keep Assad in power in the face of a civil war, and Iran is hoping to expand its military capabilities across Syria to its terrorist proxies in Lebanon. Ansari is in Sochi, Russia for a diplomatic summit on a political settlement to the crisis. Syrian opposition leaders and the United States declined to attend, preferring a United Nations-led process, but NATO ally Turkey joined the event.
“When all the tasks are achieved, Iranian forces will leave the country with the consent of the Syrian authorities,” Ansari also said.
The summit is taking place one day after Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to warn Putin that Israel will not allow an Iranian military build-up on its borders.
“This meeting occurred while there is a watershed change in Syria. Will Iran establish itself in Syria or will this process be stopped?” Netanyahu asked Monday. “If it is not halted on its own then we will act to stop it. We also spoke about Lebanon. I told [Putin] that the threat of precision weapons against Israel is a serious threat that we are not willing to accept and if we have to act, we will act.”
Russian officials maintain that the Sochi summit could enhance the U.N. talks, provided the Syrian opposition give up on trying to oust Assad.
“[T]he Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi will be able to create conditions for staging fruitful Geneva talks, taking into consideration that the part of the Syrian opposition that constantly makes preconditions, including for regime change, will be talked into sense by those who control it,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in early January, according to state-run media.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson countered that long-term peace in Syria depends on the departure of both Assad and Iran. “Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally, Israel,” he said in a January 17 address. “[R]educing and expelling malicious Iranian influence from Syria depends on a democratic Syria. For many years, Syria under Bashar al-Assad has been a client state of Iran. A Syrian central government that is not under the control of Assad will have new legitimacy to assert its authority over the country.”
Source » washingtonexaminer