The United States offered the Assad regime to take its forces out of Syria in return for an Iranian withdrawal from the country's south, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Tuesday.
Officials in Washington have not confirmed the report, which has not been published in U.S. media. In response to the report, the Syrians said that the U.S. forces are occupiers and must get out. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has long lobbied both the U.S. and Russia to remove Iran from Syria - the Iranian presence in Syria has triggered over a hundred of Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
The U.S. and Russia are currently both building up a large navy presence off of Syria as the two countries try to head off a violent escalation in Idlib betweet Assad forces, rebels and possibly Turkey.
The Lebanese daily, considered close to Hezbollah, reported that U.S. intelligence agency representatives met last month in Damascus with senior officials in the Syrian regime's security establishment.
- Senior official: Israel will continue to act against Iranian attempts to transfer forces into Syria
- Trump, Merkel share concerns over Syria as Russia continues largest naval build up since war began
- Russia deploys fleet off Syria while claiming U.S. preparing for possible strike
According to the report the meeting lasted four hours and the Americans set three conditions for their withdrawal, which would include leaving the al-Tanf base near the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border triangle as well as the forces located east of the Euphrates River.
In addition to demanding Iranian withdrawal from south Syria, near Israel, the U.S. representatives demanded, according to the report, written confirmation that American companies would receive a portion of the oil market and that the U.S would get information about terrorists.
The Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus. Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami travelled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad and senior military officials, and said that the agreement also stipulates helping rebuild Syria's military industry.
U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for discussions on the security situation in Syria. A senior White House official told Haaretz that when Bolton was in Moscow for preparations three weeks prior, Putin told him that he doesn't want to see Iranian forces remain in Syria but he's not sure Russia alone can get Iranian forces out of the country.
Iran currently has thousands of soldiers and militia fighters operating in Syria; Iran also expects to reap the benefits of Syria's reconstruction process once the war is over. Iranian officials have said that Tehran will not agree under any circumstance to remove its forces from Syria.
Russia is currently keeping Iranian forces at a distance of 85 kilometers from Israel's border, but the Israeli and American position over the past year has consistently been that Iran needs to remove all of its forces from Syria. Putin shares that position but doubts whether it can be implemented, according to the official.