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Iranian Defense Minister Stakes out Islamic Republic’s Position in Syria
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

Iranian Defense Minister Stakes out Islamic Republic’s Position in Syria

After hearing the United States, Israel and Russia speak volumes about Iran’s role – or none – in post-civil-war Syria, the Islamic Republic’s defense minister told reporters in Damascus at the start of a two-day visit that no “third party can effect the presence of Iranian advisers in Syria.” Defense Minister Amir Hatami met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while his entourage has begun to work on defense and military agreements that when revealed, will no doubt underscore the Iranian position that it is in Syria at Assad’s request and therefore will stay as long as it cares to. In a recent conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Putin told the Israeli that while he doesn’t agree with a lot of what Iran proffers, he doesn’t have the ability to send Iran home on his own. The issue is more complicated than a question of Iran in-or-out. Israel is demanding that minimally, the Iranians stay far from the Israeli – Syrian border along the Golan Heights. With four major players jockeying for position; Israel determined to forcibly remove any threat to its ability to operate militarily in Syrian territory; Russia supporting Israel’s right to self-defense (if in a limited way); Iran’s manipulation of multiple terror proxies topped by Lebanon-based Hizbullah, arguably the region’s most proficient fighting force after Israel’s army; the future is precarious at best. Hatami’s declaration that, “Iran will spare no effort to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity,” is seen as a warning to Israel and a message to the others that it has no plans to depart any time soon.

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