National Security Adviser John Bolton told Reuters Wednesday—ahead of his meeting with Director of Russia’s Security Service Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva on Thursday—that President Vladimir Putin had told President Trump in Helsinki last July that he is unable to force Iran out of Syria.
However, according to Bolton, Putin also stressed “that his interest and Iran’s were not exactly the same. So we’re obviously going to talk to him about what role they can play.”
“We’re going see what we and others can agree in terms of resolving the conflict in Syria,” Bolton told Reuters, “But the one prerequisite there is the withdrawal of all Iranian forces back in Iran.”
Bolton also suggested that the Russians are not necessarily thrilled to be stuck in Syria. “I think their frenetic diplomatic activity in Europe indicates that they’d like to find somebody else, for example, to bear the cost of reconstructing Syria – which they may or may not succeed in doing,” he told Reuters.
Bolton’s assertions were contradicted by Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin, who on Tuesday asserted that Russia will keep developing its military, defense and anti-terrorism cooperation with Iran.
Fomin was commenting on his talks with Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Qassem Taqizadeh, and explained that “the world is very fragile, and the fight against terrorism is among the priorities of our cooperation. This threat should not be underestimated, we need to boost our cooperation and team up in the fight against this evil.”
Yes, you heard it right, the Russian deputy defense minister was describing his country’s successful cooperation with Iran in the fight against international terrorism.
Bolton, for his part, told Reuters that the US would remain in Syria until ISIS is no longer a factor there–which is how Russia and Iran are justifying their presence in that war-torn country. In addition, Bolton insisted, the US role there was “to worry about the presence of Iranian militias and regular forces.”
Which did not preclude direct US action against Iran in Syria – something we’d expect of the John Bolton we know and love.