U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton met with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, last week In Geneva. Among the issues discussed was the U.S. demand that Russia persuade Iran, with whom it has been collaborating in Syria in defense of the Assad regime, to remove its forces from Syria. While Patrushev seems to have agreed with Bolton that this ought to be done, he made it clear that Russia did not have the ability to force Iran to leave Syria .
President Trump's demand that Iran remove its forces from Syria is not new. In his speech on May 8 announcing American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump demanded that a renegotiated agreement must include Iran accepting permanent limits on its enrichment program and agreeing to discontinue its missile development program. But he did not stop at that. Trump mentioned that Iran must also stop "its malign behavior in the region" a code phrase for Iran withdrawing from Syria and relinquishing its efforts to increase its influence in the Middle East.