TEL AVIV – Israel is “gravely concerned” at the alleged failure on the part of the U.S. to secure an agreement to end the civil war in Syria that would see all Iranian military presence eliminated from the country, an Israeli security expert said on Monday.
Ronen Bergman, investigative journalist and military analyst for Israel’s Yedioth Aharonot newspaper, reported the news follows a visit by a senior delegation of Israeli defense officials to Washington to meet with U.S. intelligence chiefs, National Security Council officials and President Donald Trump’s special negotiator to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt.
The delegation, which included Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, Military Intelligence Directorate (MID) Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, “presented sensitive, credible and highly disturbing intelligence information” pertaining to Iran’s presence in Syria, intelligence officials said.
“We rushed here to warn of the deployment of Hezbollah, Iranian and Syrian forces; to explain exactly what’s going on there. Without a significant change in your position, if you don’t become more involved, tougher and more aggressive, you will leave the Middle East to the Iranians, under Russian auspices,” Bergman cited the Israelis as telling their American counterparts.
According to intelligence sources, a final status agreement brokered between Syria, Russia and the U.S. is on the horizon. American-Russian cooperation in the last few months has brought a steady decline in fighting in the embattled country, and even the influence of terror groups like the Islamic State has waned considerably.
However, despite what ostensibly seemed like a friendly visit, the Israelis could not persuade the Americans to demand the evacuation of Iranian and Hezbollah forces from Syria. Israel fears Iran will expand its presence – including implementing missile systems – to the Syrian side of the Golan. Iranian presence in the country currently includes some 500 soldiers, 5,000 Hezbollah militants and several thousand more from other Shiite proxies, all under the stewardship of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force.
According to Bergman, the delegation said upon their return over the weekend that while they were in the U.S. they had observed “a kind of embarrassment and lack of a clear position in the American administration with regards to the nature of the future agreement and disagreements on what should and what should not be done in Syria to bring quiet to the entire region. As far as they’re concerned, the matter is still wide open.”
Israel’s concern is compounded by President Donald Trump’s domestic challenges as well as unfolding events with North Korea, leaving the Jewish state worried that Washington may choose not to go head to head with Russia and Syria on the Iranian question.
Israel intends to send another defense delegation to Moscow to present its case to Russian President Vladimir Putin.