White House National Security Adviser John Bolton says the United States will continue to push for full withdrawal of Iran's military from Syria in talks with Russia over the Syrian civil war.
In an interview with Reuters published early on August 22, Bolton said Washington is maintaining a contingent of several thousand U.S. soldiers in Syria in part out of its concern that Iranian fighters in the country pose a threat to U.S. ally Israel.
"Our interests in Syria are to finish the destruction of the [Islamic State's] territorial caliphate and deal with the continuing threat of ISIS terrorism, and to worry about the presence of Iranian militias and regular forces," he said. "And those are the issues that keep us there."
Bolton is due to meet with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva on August 23 in the first official follow-up to a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump last month at which they discussed the U.S. and Israeli demand that Iranian forces withdraw from Syria.
Bolton told Reuters that Putin informed Trump at the summit that Russia cannot force the Iranian troops to leave.
"But he also told us that his interest and Iran's were not exactly the same [in Syria]. So we're obviously going to talk to him about what role they can play" at the upcoming meeting, Bolton said.
"We're going see what we and others can agree in terms of resolving the conflict in Syria. But the one prerequisite there is the withdrawal of all Iranian forces back in Iran," he said.