U.S. to Dismantle Base in Exchange for Iranian Withdrawal From Southern Syria, Report Says

Secretary of state's aide in talks with Russian, Jordanian and Turkish officials, Saudi-owned paper reports

UN force on the Israeli-Syrian border, June 2018
Baz Ratner (Reuters)

Negotiations are being held to close down an American military base on the Syria-Iraq border in exchange for Iranian withdrawal from southern Syria, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported Sunday. According to the Saudi-owned paper's report, the proposition was brought up by U.S. Secretary of State aide David Satterfield in a meeting with Russian, Jordanian and Turkish officials.

Satterfield pitched several options in the meeting, among them one to remove all Syrian forces and militias from the Syria-Jordan border and stationing a Russian police force there instead, while developing a Russian-American supervision mechanism.

Syria's foreign minister, Walid Moaellem, said on Saturday that Israel is lying about Iran's presence in the war-torn country, claiming only Iranian advisers are in Syria and are there in coordination with the regime – unlike American, Turkish and French forces.   

Moallem said that Syria is fighting terrorism with Iranian help and will demand that all foreign forces, including those of the U.S., exit the country before it is willing to discuss the removal of the Iranian advisers.

Also Saturday, A senior Israeli official denied reports that Israel and Russia have reached a deal to see Iranian forces pulled out of southern Syria.

"In talks this week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well, Netanyahu stressed that Iran needs to leave all of Syria," the official said. "Israel will continue to maintain its operational freedom to act against Iranian entrenchment in all of Syria," they said.

Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, in Moscow to discuss the tensions between Israel and the Iranian forces in Syria.

"The state of Israel appreciates Russia's understanding of our security concerns, particularly regarding the situation at our northern border," Lieberman wrote on Twitter after the meeting. "We'll continue our dialogue with Russia on every matter at hand."