Iran has no intention to leave Syria: top official

Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg

Middle East expert and author Joel Rosenberg

A top foreign policy adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei said Friday after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Iranian forces will remain in Syria despite protests from Israel and the Trump administration.

"US must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn't come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence", Graham tweeted early Thursday.

During the meeting, the two discussed the bilateral ties as well as the situation in Syria, and Velayati gave Putin two messages from Khamenei and Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, the Kremlin's press office said, providing no further details.

Ali Akbar Velayati is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's leading adviser.

"We have come there without the Americans' permission and we won't heed their demands to leave", he said.

Tehran and Moscow share common interests, and Iran-Russia cooperation in helping Syria counter terrorism is an "exemplary model of cooperation", Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, was quoted as saying by Tehran Times daily. A Russian major oil company is to sign a $4 billion deal with Iranian Oil Ministry and related project will be started soon, Velayati said.

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As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad overcomes one of the last bastions of a 2011 uprising backed by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab states, neighboring Israel has increasingly warned against perceived violations of the 1974 non-aggression pact between the two warring governments under the auspices of the United Nations.

"Iran and Russia's presence in Syria will continue to protect the country against terrorist groups and America's aggression ..." Israel worries that he could deploy troops or allow his Iranian and Hezbollah allies to set up emplacements near Israeli lines.

"Our presence in Syria has no relation to Israel", said Velayati on Friday, the Russian TASS news agency reported.

Velayati also strongly warned Russian Federation against listening to the USA arguments about the Iranian presence in Syria.

Iran, following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, is facing stiff sanctions and can not afford to lose Russia's support, nor will it be able to provide Assad with the same level of support. This was in response to a question about Israel demanding a pullout of all Iranians from Syria.

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