After Russia reportedly told Iran to evacuate major swaths of Syrian territory, Iranian officials denied they have any intention of complying.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Various Iranian officials told the media on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has no intention of leaving Syria.
This was partly in reaction to reports of agreements between Israel and Russia regarding the pull-back of Iranian forces from the Syrian border area with Israel.
It was also a response to reports in which Russian special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, clarified that President Vladimir Putin’s remarks last week about “foreign forces” leaving Syria applied to Iranian fighters and their proxies, among others.
Sounding a defiant note, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, an advisor to the Iranian chief of staff, told his country’s Tasnim News Agency, “Iran and Syria enjoy deep relations that would not be influenced by the propaganda measures of anyone.”
He also made the observation that his country had been invited in by Damascus, unlike other nations.
“Unlike the American military forces and the regional reactionaries, the Iranian advisors are present in Syria at the request of the Syrian government and people,” Jazayeri noted, adding, “We are waiting to see a day that Syria and the other regional countries would witness an era without the annoying and troublemaking aliens.”
His point was echoed by Iranian negotiator Masoud Asadollahi, who said during a Syrian television interview that the statement attributed to Lavrentiev was “very strange” since “everyone knows” that “the presence of the Iranian forces, Hezbollah and their allies there, is approved by the Syrian government and state.”
“From day one we have been saying that we would remain there as long as the Syrian government wants it,” he continued, adding that as soon as the Syrians want the Islamic Republic to pull out, “Iran will be ready to pull its forces out of Syria.”
The only apparent inconsistency between the two officials was whether the Iranian presence consists of just “advisors” or “forces.” Many Iranian and Syrian officials – including President Bashar al-Assad — have been claiming over the last several days that the number of Iranian troops there is minimal, only serving in an advisory capacity and with no major bases in the country.
This is flatly contradicted by Israeli assessments and warnings over many months of a massive build-up of Iranian assets in Syria, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly cautioned is a redline that Israel will not countenance.
The IDF announced in May that it had hit over 50 high-quality Iranian targets in Syria, including weapons depots, observation posts, intelligence facilities and logistics compounds.
The airstrike came in response to 20 missiles fired by Iranian forces in Syria toward Israel, according to Jerusalem, even though only four had to be shot down by the Iron Dome defense system, with the rest failing to reach Israeli territory.