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US Warns Russia Over Missile Defense   09/25 06:25

   NEW YORK (AP) -- The Trump administration is warning Russia that supplying 
Syria with an advanced missile defense system would be a "major mistake" and 
should be reconsidered. It also says U.S. forces will not leave Syria until 
Iran leaves.

   National security adviser John Bolton said Monday that delivery of the 
Russian S-300 would be a "significant escalation" in already high tensions in 
the region and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would raise the matter 
this week with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at the U.N. General 

   "We think introducing the S-300s to the Syrian government would be a 
significant escalation by the Russians and something that we hope, if these 
press reports are accurate, they would reconsider," Bolton said.

   Russia announced earlier Monday that it would give Syria's government more 
modern, S-300 missile defense systems after last week's downing of a Russian 
plane by Syria in a friendly fire incident. The military's reconnaissance Il-20 
was shot down by the Syrian government missile defense systems responding to an 
Israeli airstrike. Russia laid the blame on Israel, saying Israeli fighter jets 
had pushed the plane into Syria's line of fire.

   "We have American forces in the area we're concerned about," Bolton said. 
"The Israelis have a legitimate right to self-defense against this Iranian 
aggressive behavior, and what we're all trying to do is reduce tensions, reduce 
the possibility of major new hostilities. That's why the president has spoken 
to this issue and why we would regard introducing the S300 as a . major 

   Syria's skies, where regional and international powers back different 
parties in the conflict, are increasingly crowded.

   Shortly before the downing, Israeli strikes had hit targets inside Syria, 
reportedly preventing an arms shipment to the Iranian-backed militant Hezbollah 

   Russia launched its campaign in Syria to support President Bashar Assad in 
2015, and though the involvement turned the tide of war in favor of Syrian 
government forces, Moscow has tried to play a careful balancing act, 
maintaining good ties both with Iran and Israel. For its part, Israel is wary 
of Iran's growing influence in Syria.

   Bolton said the U.S. would keep a military presence in Syria until Iran is 
no longer active there.

   "We're not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian 
borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias," he said.

   Asked about Bolton's statement that U.S. troops will stay in Syria as long 
as Iran forces and proxies are there, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told 
reporters at the Pentagon, "Right now our troops inside Syria are there for one 
purpose, and that's under the U.N. authorization about defeating ISIS." He said 
this includes training local Syrian forces to prevent an ISIS comeback.

   Mattis did not explicitly support or dispute Bolton's statement, although 
his description of the role and mission of U.S. troops in Syria did not include 
outlasting Iran.

   Pressed to say whether he agreed with Bolton's statement, Mattis said, "I'll 
let Ambassador Bolton speak for himself," but added later that he had spoken to 
Bolton twice Monday. "I think we're on the same sheet of music," which he said 
means supporting U.N.-brokered efforts to reach a political settlement. "There 
is no daylight between his appreciation of the situation and mine." 


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