Top Iranian aide Ali Akbar Velayati, giving a conference in Russia on Friday, ruled out the possibility of an immediate withdrawal of its military from Iraq and Syria. He said they would leave those countries only if the governments there wanted them to.
Velayati went on to say that the positions of Iran’s military presence in Syria are coordinated with the Assad government, as well as the Russian government. This was in response to a question about Israel demanding a pullout of all Iranians from Syria.
Though Iran has only a small number of forces in Syria, they’ve become an increasingly contentious issue because of Israel’s anger. Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu was in Russia recently to push Vladimir Putin on the idea of forcing them out of Syria. This is also expected to be a topic of discussion in the Putin-Trump summit on Monday.
Velayati’s comments are likely intended to at least partially preempt that possibility by making it clear Iran’s presence in Syria is not contingent on Russian permission, but rather on the Assad government’s invitation.