Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is enjoying a triumphal moment. He didn’t attend the Helsinki summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, of course, but he certainly felt he was represented there writes Zev Shafets at Bloomberg.
“I think we really came to a lot of good conclusions, a really good conclusion for Israel,” Trump told interviewer Sean Hannity immediately after the meeting. Putin, Trump said, “is a believer in Israel. He’s a fan of Bibi. He is really helping him a lot and will help him a lot, which is good for all of us.”
At the summit’s concluding press conference, Putin also had a gift for Bibi: “The situation on the Golan Heights must be restored to what it was after the 1974 [separation of forces] agreement,” he said.
This is precisely what Netanyahu asked him for when they met in Moscow, a few days before the summit. It means a complete cease-fire along the Israel-Syrian border and no foreign troops anywhere in the vicinity. (Photo: Sputnik)
Officially, Netanyahu (and Trump) want all Iranian troops withdrawn from Syria. But neither is willing to expel the Iranians by force, which would require ground troops, and so a compromise is needed.
Israel can live with a relatively small contingent of Iranian “advisers,” stationed east of Damascus, far from its border. That would suit both the U.S. and Russia.
The Iranians, of course, don’t want to go anywhere, and they don’t intend to accept limitations on the deployment of their forces. But if there is an American-Russian agreement on no-go zones for Iranian troops there is very little they can do.
Russia does not necessarily want all Iranian troops to leave Syria. It is building permanent installations and ports in Syria, and it needs a stable regime in Damascus.
Yet, Putin has no interest in serving as Assad’s internal security policeman, and it would serve his purpose to have Iran providing muscle in the immediate post-civil war period.
If and when Bashar al-Assad gets full control of the country, he may well get rid of the Iranians himself. Arab dictators are notoriously unwilling to cede freedom of action to non-Arab (and in this case, non-Alawite) armed personnel on their turf.