A military vehicle can be seen positioned on the Israeli side of the border with Syria, near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel February 11, 2018. (REUTERS)

September 9, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking an “electoral gift” by persuading US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold a tripartite political-military meeting ahead of the elections to “curb” Iran’s influence in Syria.

Heads of the national security offices of the US, Israel, and Russia- John Bolton, Ben Shabat, and Nikolai Patrushev respectively- met in West Jerusalem last June to discuss Iranian influence in Syria and elsewhere.

Netanyahu wants to travel to Sochi to meet with Putin and convince him to hold a new tripartite meeting, but with the participation of foreign and possibly defense ministers.

The Israeli PM also suggested the foreign ministers of US Mike Pompeo, Russia Sergei Lavrov, and Israel Yisrael Katz participate in the meetings.

The Israeli PM made an urgent visit to London to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and as Secretary of Defense, he also met with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. Esber also held similar talks in Paris.

The US-European-Israeli talks discussed two issues; the first being the coordination of positions on the Iranian “nuclear agreement.”

London and Paris believe that Iran’s recent move toward a gradual withdrawal from the nuclear agreement “did not close the door” on the French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative.

The initiative provides for a $15 billion credit line to Tehran in return for retreating all recent escalatory steps.

The credit line phases are still on the table with $5 billion to be paid to Iran which will not escalate any situation and will make room for a meeting between Presidents Trump and Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.

The French proposal also includes paying another $5 billion, in return Iran will drop the steps it has taken since May 8 before entering the third stage to discuss Iran’s regional role, especially in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Netanyahu and Bolton take a strong stand by maintaining a policy of exerting “maximum pressure” on Tehran while talks continue, including negotiations on providing maritime security in the Gulf.

This was discussed between US, British, and French officials to coordinate between Washington’s proposal to persuade countries in sending ships and vessels in international efforts to protect maritime navigation.

It was faced with a French-German proposal to form a European force, especially since European countries do not have the military capability to do so alone.

The US-European-Israeli talks also discussed the Iranian role in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It was noted that before Netanyahu’s visit to London, Israel leaked a picture of “Iranian sites” in eastern Syria and a “precision missile factory” in the Lebanese Bekaa.

Tel Aviv also leaked information and names of Iranian and Hezbollah figures associated with the Iranian program.

The Israeli website “Dabka” revealed that Pompeo addressed an urgent message directly to Lebanese Foreign Minister Jubran Basil, asking Lebanon to dismantle a second missile factory without delay since Israel was in advanced preparations for its destruction.

He stressed that Israel would be acting with full US support, whatever the consequences of the operation. The site noted that the US message did not specify the location of missile factory No. 2.

Washington is said to be using three tools to pressure Beirut: sanctions on banks and the possibility of expanding them, freezing aid for the Lebanese army, and threatening with a military operation.

Netanyahu brought with him senior military and intelligence officials to London to present a detailed presentation of Iranian bases in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

A Western official said European countries were cautious in dealing with Israeli requests to provide intelligence and military cover for possible Israeli operations.

The official said European countries believe this could lead to a full-scale war, especially after they heard Netanyahu “wants to launch additional strikes on Iranian missile stores and bases in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, but he does not want comprehensive war.”

Israel attacked weapons sites and warehouses in Iraq at least five times, but the question remains about its impact on the US presence there.

The leaked picture of the “Iranian base” in al-Bukamal, eastern Syria, showed that it is located hundreds of meters from US bases and forces east of the Euphrates and from the al-Tanf base on the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border.

Netanyahu is therefore in a hurry to convince his “friends” Trump and Putin to support the tripartite meeting.

The previous agreement between the three countries succeeded in arranging the return of Syrian government forces to the south in exchange for the removal of “non-Syrian forces”, referring to Iranian militias more than 80 kilometers from the Jordan border.

Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.