Iran to Be the Focus of US-Russia Summit

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Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria

President Donald Trump expects to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. The Syrian conflict is going to be one of the most immediately pressing issues on the colorful and wide-ranging agenda of the meeting.

After seven years of war, the fighting is finally over. The United States made Iran’s influence in Syria a very important objective. This objective was also backed by Israel. Officials from the United States and Russia indicated that an agreement for this situation will probably be the main outcome of the summit.

The Agreement

If the two countries make an agreement, it will likely be general in nature and very carefully phrased. The plan will probably be to limit Iran’s presence instead of ending it, according to analysts.

Iran probably won’t withdraw its forces from Syria at first, analysts say. Iran has many militias, and the Lebanese Hezbollah is one of them. Iran’s militias have a presence all over — from central Syria to Lebanon and across the Iraq border.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gains political and military assistance from Russia and Iran. He was able to recapture around 60 percent of the country with his allies. The main cities are recaptured, too. This ended talks of a regime change in Damascus. Russia, however, plays the role of an uncontested power broker.

What’s On the Table for Discussion?

The objective for both the U.S. and Russia is not to remove Assad from power in Syria. The main focus will be Iran’s influence in Syria. Experts believe that Tehran has around 80,000 fighters in Syria at the moment. All of them are members of paramilitary forces and Shiite militias that are loyal to Iran.

John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, said in an interview earlier this month that the strategic issue wasn’t Assad, but Iran. Israel warned many times that Iran is growing its footprint. Also, Israel stated that it won’t allow Iran’s Shiite proxies to establish a presence in Syria.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. are still high after the U.S. withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal. Iran’s recent bombings of Israel have not helped matters. At the summit, experts say Trump will likely ask Russia to join him in sanctions against Iran. He will then lift sanctions against Russia.