As US forces are reportedly withdrawing from Syria, the mainstream media, in particular their pro-Israeli part, has come with a new wave of allegations in an attempt to undermine the Russian-Iranian alliance.
According to Axios, more than three months ago Russian National Security Advisor Nikolai Patrushev gave his Israeli counterpart a proposal for a deal between US and Russia in regard to Syria and Iran. 2 unnamed Israel officials were cited as claiming that the purpose was to begin a wider dialogue between Moscow and Washington with the aim of improving relations.
The proposal allegedly tied the US withdrawal from Syria with the Iranian one. This plan also presumably provided Israel and the US with more influence in a future political settlement in Syria. However, it also called for relief from some US sanctions on Iran – for that reason Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly rejected the proposal.
The proposal was called the “Patrushev Paper” and it was given to Israel in a meeting that took place in Moscow on September 13th, four days before the downing of Russian IL-20 above Syria, which caused a crisis of relations between Israel and Russia.
The two unnamed officials said that Russia proposed that Israel worked as a facilitator between the US and Russia. “They asked us to open the gates for them in Washington,” one Israeli official was cited.
According to the unnamed officials the proposal included the following points:
- Freezing the U.S. plan for reimposing economic sanctions on Iran in November as part of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
- A Russian commitment to push Iranian and pro-Iranian forces out of Syria.
- A withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, mainly from the Al-Tanf base.
- The opening of a dialogue between the U.S. and Russia on the issue of Iran.
- Using the U.S.-Russian dialogue on Syria and Iran to expand their dialogue on other bilateral relations.
Netanyahu reportedly rejected the proposal because he thought that US sanctions on Iran could be used as leverage to force Iran out of Syria.
“For Netanyahu, stopping the Iranian nuclear program was above everything else, and this is why he refused to show any flexibility on the issue of U.S. sanctions,” one Israeli official was cited.
Another unnamed Israeli official said that if Israel hadn’t rejected the Russian proposal, it might have been able to ensure that any US decision to pull out of Syria would be part of a deal on an Iranian withdrawal.
None of these claims have been confirmed by either the Russian or the US side. Ultimately, any kind of such a deal fell through since the IL-20 shootdown and Washington’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria on December 19th.
This relates to a previous report by Axios that in a closed hearing on November 19th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Russia recently proposed to Israel and US that Iranian forces and proxies would be removed in exchange for some relief of US sanctions on Iran. The report was based on claims by two unnamed Israeli officials.
Israel heavily opposes the Iranian presence in Syria, which Russia describes as legitimate because it came after an Assad government invitation.
Thus, this is the first time that the Russians allegedly propose an idea for Iran’s withdrawal, and that they’re linking it to US sanctions.
Netanyahu’s statement on the matter came during a hearing of the foreign affairs and security committee of the Knesset. Back then Netanyahu was not yet Defense Minister, he was only Prime Minister, Health Minister and Foreign Minister.
The Russian embassy in Tel-Aviv declined to comment on this story. An unnamed senior State Department official said:
“We remain engaged with the UN and other parties, including Russia, to encourage all possible efforts to advance the political track as called for in UNSCR 2254. We do not however discuss the substance of these diplomatic discussions.”
Following the announcement of the US withdrawal from Syria, Israel is scrambling to find allies in the country so as to continue its aggression against Iran’s influence in the country. Thus, the story of the Russian proposal, until actually confirmed, is simply a ploy to attempt and create tension between Russia and Iran.
On December 20th, Netanyahu said that Israel will “continue to act aggressively against Iran’s attempt to entrench itself in Syria.”
“I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the US,” Netanyahu said at the fifth Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit held in Beersheba.
He further said that Israel would continue efforts along the Lebanon border to destroy tunnels and counter Hezbollah.
“These tunnels were built by Hezbollah with direct support and funding from Iran,” Netanyahu claimed.
On December 20th, Russian President Vladimir said that he largely agreed with Trump that ISIS has been defeated in Syria. He also called US presence in Syria illegitimate.
He also said that he didn’t know what a US withdrawal from Syria really means, since he has seen no any signs of it, and reminded that the US has said it many times in the past that it is leaving Afghanistan, but it is still there.
Furthermore, Israel appears to have its hand tied even more, if reports of the new rules of engagement in Syria are true.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- New Rules Of Engagement Between Syria And Israel, As Russia Changes Its Position
- U.S. Is Preparing For Full Withdrawal From Syria: Confirmed