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August 26, 2018 12:06 pm

Iranian Defense Minister Arrives in Syria for Talks

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Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami delivers a speech during the annual Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Syria on Sunday for meetings with senior defense and military officials as part of a two-day visit, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Iranian forces have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

“We hope to have a productive role in the reconstruction of Syria,” Hatami said on arrival in the country, according to Fars News.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that Iran should remove its forces from Syria.

Senior Iranian officials have said their military presence in Syria is at the invitation of the Assad government and they have no immediate plans to withdraw.

More than 1,000 Iranians, including senior members of the elite Revolutionary Guards, have been killed in Syria since 2012.

The Guards initially kept quiet about their role in the Syria conflict. But in recent years, as casualties have mounted, they have been more outspoken about their engagement, framing it as an existential struggle against the Sunni Muslim fighters of Islamic State who see Shi’ites — the majority of Iran’s population — as apostates.

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