A possible withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria appears to be on the agenda of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in his upcoming meetings with Iranian and Israeli officials, while mounting pressures on Iran aim at curbing Tehran’s regional ambitions.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the international affairs adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are slated to take part in separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday July 11 and Thursday, media reports say.
Velayati arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, saying that “in the current sensitive situation” he is there to deliver a letter from Khamenei to Putin in his meeting on Thursday, Tasnim news agency reported.
Netanyahu will also meet Putin to discuss the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. He told his cabinet during a meeting on Sunday that he would once again inform Russia of his country’s “firm demand” about the exit of Iranian forces from Syria.
This is the latest of a series of meetings between Netanyahu and Putin in recent months over Iran’s military presence in Syria.
Netanyahu reiterated that “Israel will not tolerate Iran’s military presence in Syria neither close to its borders, nor anywhere else in that country.”
On the same day Netanyahu made these remarks, Israeli forces fired several rockets at the T-4 base in Homs province.
Syria’s Human Rights Watch says the Israeli attack targeted Iranian forces and their militia allies, although Syria claims to have “averted” the attack.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, said he was not aware of the attack and had read the news about it in the papers.
Lieberman had said on Tuesday Israel would take measures as soon as it notices any Iranian military presence in Syria.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton told CBS television that Trump would discuss the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria in his upcoming meeting with Putin later in July.
In recent months, Russian officials have said that foreign forces including Iranians and the Lebanese Hezbollah should leave Syria.
In June, an Iranian member of parliament in an unprecedented event unleashed a harsh attack on Russia and was widely quoted by Iranian media.
Behrouz Bonyadi in a speech before the start of the regular meeting of parliament declared, “Bashar Assad, with full impudence, has cozied up to Putin”, adding “Russia will not be a trustworthy friend for us”.
While Iran is holding talks with Russia, China, and European states to save its nuclear deal with the West following the United States’ withdrawal from the accord, a US official has quoted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as having said that he would discuss how to step up pressure on Iran in his meetings with his European counterparts, Reuters reported.
Pompeo also wants to reassure allies about alternative oil supplies as the U.S. moves to curb Iran’s exports.
The official also quoted Pompeo as saying that there is more agreement on Iran between the US and its European allies than there are differences.
Pompeo had said during a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates that the US is going to enforce a series of sanctions to make the Iranian regime understand that its vicious actions are unacceptable and that its actions have "a real high cost. "