Israel's Conditions for Accepting the Return of Syrian Regime Forces to Its Border

(BICOM-UK) Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog - The Syrian regime has regained control over nearly 2/3 of the country. The regime's assault in the south essentially put an end to the 2017 de-escalation agreement in the southwest provinces. In principle, Israel is not opposed to Syrian moves to recapture these areas as long as certain conditions are met. They include the immediate withdrawal of Iran's military presence and other Shia proxies such as Hizbullah that are present in the south. It appears that Russia is willing to accept this Israeli demand. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the Russians can actually deliver on this pledge. Israel has argued that it is not enough to distance Iranian forces from the south, and seeks to have them excluded from all of Syria. According to Israeli Intelligence, Iran is working toward turning the whole of Syria into another military front with Israel, including military air and naval elements, proxy Shiite "legions," and a huge arsenal of rockets to complement Hizbullah's 120,000 rockets in Lebanon. Accordingly, Israel has been targeting Iranian military capabilities that have been introduced into Syria. On this issue, while Russia has publicly agreed that in the long-term, Iranian forces should be excluded from Syria, it believes that this is unrealistic at present. With the war not yet over, Russia still needs Iranian forces. At the same time, Russia has turned a blind eye to Israeli initiatives targeting Iran and its proxies in Syria, as long as Israeli actions do not endanger Russian troops or assets or target the Assad regime. An additional Israeli condition is the full implementation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which was reached following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. This established a buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli military forces (about 80 km. long and between 0.5 and 10 km. wide), as well as additional areas with limitations on troops and weapons on both sides. At the July 16 Helsinki summit, Putin noted that he and Trump agreed on the need to fully implement the 1974 agreement so as to ensure Israel's security. The writer is a former chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense.

2018-07-19 00:00:00

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