Report: US offered to exit Syria if Iran vacates south
Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper claims US, Syrian delegationS held secret meeting in Damascus last week, during which Syria’s national security bureau head, Ali Mamlouk, rejected the offer, accusing the US of being an 'occupying force' and emphasizing that strong Iranian-Syrian ties will not be changing in the near future.
Last week, the report claims, a surreptitious meeting took place in Damascus between an American delegation of senior Defense Department officials, during which they made a series of demands in exchange for the US vacating war-torn Syria.
In addition to the demand that Iranian forces exit southern Syria, the US also sought a Syrian guarantee that the US would receive a share of Syrian oil and that the country transfer information from Damascus to Washington about the terrorist organizations operating in the country, claiming that "the threat of terrorism crosses continents and that the information we receive can likely serve the state’s security.”
According to the report, the American delegation, which was escorted by a large Syrian security detail, met with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s national security bureau. The report claimed that the US team was led by a senior officer and was composed of representatives from other intelligence agencies.
The Syrian delegation, the report claimed, included other senior security officials, including the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and the meeting was said to have lasted for four hours.
The Syrian’s allegedly rejected the American proposal. “You are here as an occupying force. You came onto our land without permission and you can leave in the same way,” Mamlouk was quoted as saying. “Until that happens, we will treat you as an occupying force.”
Mamlouk also responded to the American demand that Iran leave southern Syria, telling the US delegation that the two countries in the Middle East were now part of a wider axis of cooperation, underscoring that the relations between them, and with the Hezbollah terror group, were strong.
The American proposal, he said, would not be changing the alliance which has been set up for the long haul. At the meeting’s conclusion, it was agreed that the channels of communication between the US and Syria through the Russians would remain in place.
On Monday, Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami travelled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported.
Hatami later said that an “axis of resistance is prepared and ready to always respond to any attack against Syria.”
“The presence of the Iranian forces in Syria is in accordance with a request in Damascus, and no other country has the right to express an opinion on this presence,” Hatami said in an interview with the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen satellite channel.
Reuters contributed to this report.