13 June 2018 – MESOPNEWS – Iran has drawn a line against withdrawal of its military personnel from Syria, pushing back on Israeli demands. President Hassan Rouhani issued the statement on Tuesday in a one-hour phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron. He said that the presence of Iranian “advisors” — Tehran’s label for any member of its military in Syria — stemmed from a request from the Assad regime to fight terrorism.

Rouhani contrasted this with the presence of forces from other countries — without naming France, the US, Turkey, and the UK — who were in Syria “without any coordination with the Syrian government”.

The Iranian President made no apparent reference to Israel’s insistence that Iranian personnel, Iranian-supported foreign militia, and Hezbollah remain outside a zone in southern Syria, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Jordanian border.

After the reoccupation of East Ghouta near Damascus in April, the Assad regime signalled that it would now try to take the opposition territory in Quneitra and Dara’a Provinces. Israel responded not only with warnings but with talks with Assad’s key ally Russia, who said that all “non-Syrian forces” must be out of the area and who promoted a political process for the withdrawal of rebels.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone farther, demanding that Iranian personnel leave Syria entirely. Israel has backed up its statements with periodic airstrikes on regime and Iranian positions, with the largest raids across the country in mid-April killing Iranian as well as regime troops. Neither Rouhani’s office nor Iran’s English-language media mention any response by Macron to Rouhani’s comments on Syria. www.mesop.de