The Russian forces currently in Syria will take action to restrain Hezbollah and Iranian activity there, according to understandings reached by Israel, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Jordanian official confirmed to Israel Hayom.
The understandings are the product of behind-the-scenes diplomatic talks that were underway prior to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to withdraw American forces from Syria.
According to the terms of the understanding, Russia will continue to give Israel the freedom to strike Hezbollah and Iranian targets and weaponry that threaten the “balance of power” in Syria. According to the Jordanian official, it was these understandings between Trump and Putin that paved the way for the U.S. decision to pull its forces from Syria.
Other high-ranking Jordanian officials have confirmed that Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together to contain the threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. Several of them emphasized that U.S. officials had made it clear that U.S. intelligence agencies would increase cooperation with Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, particularly on sharing intelligence, in a joint attempt to counter Iran’s attempt to create a contiguous Shi’ite corridor from Tehran to Beirut.
Senior Egyptian intelligence officials say that unlike Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Egypt was not advised ahead of time that America was pulling out of Syria.
On Thursday, in a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Beersheba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the “Iranian web of aggression in the Middle East, which also terrorizes Europe and the entire world.”
“Israel launched a campaign to expose and neutralize cross-border terror tunnels on our northern border with Lebanon. These tunnels were built by Hezbollah with direct support and funding from Iran. … Israel will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s effort to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not going to reduce our efforts; we’re going to increase our efforts,” said Netanyahu.
Behind closed doors, Israeli officials were critical of Trump’s decision. One senior minister called it a “horrifying moral and a bad diplomatic step.”
“The move does not serve Israel’s interests, harms the Kurds, strengthens [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and will give Iran additional routes through which to send weapons to Syria,” said the minister.
Cabinet ministers and diplomatic officials have also confirmed to Israel Hayom that while Netanyahu said earlier this week that Trump had advised him on Monday that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, and that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had discussed the matter with him on Tuesday, the information was never shared with Israel’s National Security Council or the cabinet.
One minister told Israel Hayom that he thought Netanyahu might have been worried that cabinet officials would vocally criticize the American move. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.