After Putin says foreign troops, including Iran and Hezbollah, should depart Syria when the civil war ends, the Islamic Republic responds that “no one can force Iran to do anything.”
By: World Israel News Staff
In a rare show of public disagreement over the weekend, Iran and Russia sparred over the future military arrangement in Syria.
Iran said on Monday that “no one” can force it to leave Syria, vowing to remain in the war-torn country to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“No one will extract us from Syria. Our presence there is legitimate and at the government’s behest,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.
“Those who should leave Syria are the ones who entered it without consent. We will remain and keep supporting Syria so long as it needs our help,” he added, according to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.
Mullahs respond to Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Thursday that “foreign armed forces” would leave Syria, according to Syria’s state-run news agency SANA, as quoted by CNN.
Putin’s comments came just a week after his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow. The two leaders discussed Israel’s unwillingness to tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria.
Assad was on a surprise visit to Russia last week. He and Putin hailed the beginning of the “political process” in Syria amid an ongoing “fight against terrorism.”
“We presume that, in connection with the significant victories and success of the Syrian army in the fight against terrorism, with the onset of a more active part, with the onset of the political process in its more active phase, foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Putin said after Thursday’s meeting.
Russia calls the shots in Syria
The US, Iran, Turkey, Russia and some other countries have troops in Syria. Russia emerged as Assad’s most powerful backer, helping to put down a rebellion against the Syrian president by intervening on his behalf in 2015.
Alexander Lavrentiev, Putin’s envoy for Syria, clarified a day later that Putin’s comment about leaving Syria was aimed at the US and Turkey along with Iran and Hezbollah.
“This statement involves all foreign troops in Syria, including the Turkish, American, Iranian and Hezbollah,” he said, but added that Putin’s comments should be viewed as a “political statement” rather than as the beginning of a withdrawal process.
Israel has repeatedly demanded Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, accusing Tehran of attempting to establish a military presence in that country in order to attack the Jewish state.
Putin’s public demand that Iran leave Syria is a positive development for Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence there after the the civil war ends.