Russia, Israel Agree To Limit Iran's Presence In South Syria

It’s time to recognize reality on Israel’s Golan claim

Modal Trigger An Israeli soldier in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Getty Images

Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Tehran's influence in Syria, said it destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria in May, after Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.

The Syrian government has not even started any negotiations with the militants in these areas, al-Moallem said, calling the U.S. troop withdrawal a necessary prerequisite for any such talks.

An element of the Israeli strategy has also been to back up the diplomacy with force in Syria.

"We have said before that Iranian military advisers are not present in southern Syria and have not participated in recent operations", Shamkhani said. "Iran's presence is legitimate as it is based on the request of the Syrian government, unlike the presence of the United States", Muallem stressed.

"Somehow, they're going to leave", he said, adding that the Syrian government will focus on dealing with the US-backed forces, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), "with the Americans, or without the Americans".

On Wednesday, Netanyahu told ministers that he had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo primarily to urge the US government to demand that an evolving agreement on troop deployment in Syria between the US, Russia and Jordan make clear that Iranian forces must leave the whole of the country. The SDF, which Assad dubbed the "only problem left in Syria", would be confronted with force if negotiations fail, the president said.

Since March 30, at least 120 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by the Israeli army's gunfire near the Gaza-Israel border fence. To start, being forced to withdraw from Syria would be a major blow to Iran's prestige at a moment when its economy is bracing for crippling sanctions following America's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

The situation in southern Syria has grabbed attention recently as the Syrian army is preparing for a wide-scale offensive to dislodge rebels from the southern provinces of Qunaitera and Daraa amid talks of a reconciliation agreement.

Israel has frequently attacked military targets inside Syria in what is widely viewed as an attempt to prop up the terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats at the hands of Syrian soldiers.

The recapture of Dara'a is highly important because it borders the occupied Golan Heights which Israel has used to treat wounded militants for years.

Mr Assad said he is committed to pushing United States forces out of Syria during an explosive interview with Russian broadcaster RT.

Iran says ISIS was created under a plot by Israel, the U.S. and their allies to disintegrate West Asian countries and protect the Israeli regime.

Shamkhani said on Saturday Iran supports a Russian-led effort to impose Syrian government control over the south of Syria.

"Neither Turkey, nor USA has a right to negotiate [about] the [fate of the] Syrian cities", he said, as cited by the Syrian SANA state news agency.

Mr. Assad told RT Thursday there were no Iranian troops in his country, saying, "We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian army as help, but they do not have troops".

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