Iran asserted yesterday it will keep its military forces in Syria at the request of the Syrian regime.
"Should the Syrians want us, we will continue to be there," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a press conference in Tehran cited by the official IRNA news agency. "Nobody can force Iran to do anything; Iran has its own independent policies," the spokesman said, in response to a question about reports that Russia wanted Iran to withdraw forces from Syria. "Those who entered Syria without the permission of the Syrian government are the ones that must leave the country," the spokesman said. Iran is a staunch supporter of the Bashar Assad regime and has deployed forces to fight alongside regime forces against opposition groups in a ferocious civil war that erupted in 2011 when the Assad regime put down pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Assad in the Russian resort city of Sochi, highlighting the importance of facilitating the "resumption of a full-fledged political process." Putin stressed that foreign forces should leave the war-weary country for rendering success to the political process. Turkey, Russia, and Iran have reached an agreement on holding the next high-level meeting on Syria in Sochi in July 2018. Since the Syrian conflict erupted, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, according to the U.N.