Iranian defense minister visits Syria to ‘strengthen cooperation’

In what appears to be a show of defiance against the US and Israel, Iranian Minister Hatami is visiting Israel in order to “strengthen cooperation and the axis of resistance.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami landed Sunday in Syria for a series of meetings with the country’s top echelon, including President Bashar al Assad, to discuss further strengthening the ties between the two allies.

Joint military actions such as an operation against rebels in the northern Idlib region are on the agenda, as well as the supply of aid to rehabilitate areas already retaken by regime forces, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.

This two-day visit by a large military delegation follows highly publicized meetings that US National Security Adviser John Bolton held both in Israel and with his Russian counterpart last week on the issue of removing Iranian forces and its proxies from Syria as soon as possible.

Such a display of friendship and close cooperation between Iran and Syria could be seen as a clear message to the Americans and Israelis as well as Assad’s somewhat cooler ally, Russia, that their plans to get rid of Iran from Israel’s northern neighbor are premature.

The Iranian news report went even further, stating that the two sides are expected to sign a formal military cooperation agreement.

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Moreover, the Islamic Republic’s Hezbollah proxy, which has propped up Assad’s regime with tens of thousands of fighters, has also received the green light to stay on, even though its natural area of operations is in Lebanon, where it is part of the government.

According to a report on Kan Israel news Sunday, the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese paper Al Akhbar said on Saturday that the terrorist organization had received an official request from the Syrian leadership to remain in the country for an “extended period” even after the regime takes back the rest of the country, as it expects to do at some point – although there are American and Kurdish forces in the north that as of now are not going anywhere.

The report also claimed that the Shiite group would aid the Syrian authorities in formulating several local reconciliation agreements, which would help bring back Syrian refugees from Lebanon and stabilize the situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Assad’s strengthening of his alliance with extremist Islamic forces is also a direct slap in the face to Saudi Arabia, which was reported last week to have offered to fund Syria’s reconstruction to the tune of billions of dollars if Damascus cuts ties with Iran and Hezbollah.