After talks of an agreement between Russia and Israel that would allow Syrian regime forces to re-take Iranian-held territory in southwestern Syria, Joshua S. Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, argued in an op-ed published in The Algemeiner Tuesday that this arrangement “must be the beginning of the complete dismantling of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria.”
“Iran’s foothold in Syria is the epicenter of the mullah regime’s aggressive empire — which stretches from the Gaza Strip to Lebanon and Iraq, all the way to Yemen — and its presence there must be ended,” Block said.
After the withdrawal from the JCPOA, he argued, we witnessed “a critical strategic shift in America’s Iran policy,” now that the Trump administration has announced a broad strategy that addresses both Iran’s illicit nuclear and non-nuclear behavior.
According to Block, this development gives America “useful leverage in its dealings with Russia” in Syria. “The Kremlin’s interests in Syria are not synonymous with those of Iran. Russia wants access to Syria’s Mediterranean ports in Tartus and Lataki, and to remain a major arms supplier to the Assad regime,” he explained.
Block added: “Russia, above all else, wants Assad’s regime stabilized, and that means that every Iranian base undermines Russia’s goal, because it risks an escalation or, even worse, war with Israel (…) Major players around the negotiation table have reached a consensus (not just Israel, America, and Sunni Arab states, but also Russia) that a permanent Iranian presence in Syria presents significant risks to all parties.”
If the Trump administration can leverage that knowledge in its negotiations with Russia, Block charged that it “presents a rare chance to rid the world of the Iranian menace in the country to the benefit of international peace and security.”
Russia reportedly entered talks with Israel over the situation in southwestern Syria, after Iranian IRGC-Quds forces fired missiles at Israeli installments in the Golan Heights and Israel retaliated with heavy bombardments in Syria. The Kremlin is concerned that hostilities between the two countries could spiral into war, thereby undermining the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which Moscow supports.
“Washington should leverage the fact that Israel, Russia, and the Sunni Arab states share the same agenda in order to pursue its own interests in reducing Iranian influence in the Middle East,” Block said.
He concluded by warning that “If America and its allies do not seize this opportunity at such a critical time and Iran’s influence in Syria remains intact, we may have squandered our best chance to avoid another violent conflict in an already war-torn region.”
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