US and Russia discuss ‘removing Iranian presence from Syria’
LONDON: Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Thursday he discussed with a senior Russian official the removal of the Iranian presence from Syria.
Speaking after meeting the head of Russia’s National Security Council, John Bolton said the White House’s aim after pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran, partly because of Tehran’s interventions in Arab countries, was to make sanctions “more extensive and effective.”
“Our objective is that all Iranian forces return to Iran … And we talked about a variety of ways in which it might be accomplished through a series of steps,” Bolton said after talks in Geneva.
In May, Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
Trump criticised the deal for allowing Iran to continue its ballistic missile program and that Tehran had continued its aggressive foreign policy through its proxy militias in country’s like Syria and Yemen.
Russia’s involvement in Syria has been a source of tension with the US. Russia and Iran have both provided vital military support for Bashar Al-Assad, who now has the upper hand in the seven-year war.
The US reintroduced sanctions against a number of areas of the Iranian economy this month, including dollar-related transactions. In November sanctions are to be introduced against Iran’s energy sector.
Bolton said that the sanctions were designed to “put maximum pressure on the regime.”
The Trump advisor also said he had warned Moscow against meddling in the US midterm elections in November.
“I made it clear we wouldn’t tolerate (election) meddling in 2018 and we were prepared to take necessary steps to prevent it from happening,” Bolton said after more than five hours of talks with Patrushev.
The US has already imposed economic sanctions against Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Moscow denies the allegations.
Bolton said the issue of meddling in elections had prevented the two sides from issuing a joint final statement, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, Republican politicians are calling for Iran to be expelled from the main financial system that oversees international bank transfers.
A group of 16 senators led by Ted Cruz of Texas urged Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin on Thursday to take “all necessary steps” to disconnect Iran from the SWIFT network.
They said the renewed US sanctions would not be effective unless that step is taken.
In the latest signs that the sanctions on Iran are starting to bite, British Airways and Air France both said on Thursday they would be halting flights to Tehran next month.