The daily Al-Hayat on Thursday quoted a Western diplomat who revealed that the new American policy in the Middle East requires a full Iranian withdrawal from Syria, and that this issue will be a priority of the summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
The White House and the Kremlin have agreed on a summit to be held by the two leaders, in Austria or Finland, after Trump attends the NATO summit in Brussels July 11 and 12, and visits the UK on the 13th.
The diplomat who spoke to Al-Hayat pointed out that the US is open to allowing President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, and even to giving him a green light to restore his sovereignty in all the areas which are currently controlled by the opposition. But all Western powers are united in granting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the power to determine who is responsible for the chemical attacks on Syrian civilians throughout the war, and make them face an international tribunal.
According to the same Western diplomat, the White House “is committed to forcing Iran to leave Syria. Jordan also objects to an Iranian presence on its borders. “If the Putin-Trump summit is held on July 15, at its core will be negotiating Washington’s insistence on Iran’s withdrawal from Syria,” the diplomat said, noting that US officials were aware that Russia “would not be willing to pay a heavy price for Iran’s survival, and negotiations with the Russians depend on this basic condition (the Iranian withdrawal). After that, everything can be discussed.”
The source claimed the US has given Israel the green light to target the Iranian presence wherever and whenever it sees fit.
The source revealed that the US and Russia are determined to strip the Syrian opposition groups in the south, near Israel’s Golan Heights border, of their weapons, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Khalid bin Walid Army. He said Washington wanted to push UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura into negotiations in Geneva to end the Syrian civil war. As for the sanctions against Iran, the source said, “It will be implemented by all entities operating in Syria … The policy of this administration is to stifle Iran.”
Al-Hayat noted that the Trump-Putin summit could provoke US allies, like the UK, who want to isolate Putin, or worry about Trump’s friendly attitude toward Russia. It is also likely to provoke Trump critics both in the United States and abroad, who already wonder about his commitment to NATO and fear his desire to normalize relations with Moscow.
National Security Adviser John Bolton, who just met with Putin in Moscow and is likely the most hawkish person to have ever held his position, said he saw “nothing extraordinary” about the summit.
Putin welcomed Bolton’s visit, saying it “gives rise to the hope that we will take the first steps towards rebuilding the relations between our two countries on the basis of equality and respect for one another’s interests.” He stressed that Russia “never sought a confrontation,” expressing regret that “Russian-American relations are not at their best.” He repeated that the reason “is largely due to a heated political conflict in Washington.”