Hours after the Russian foreign minister denied that his country was working to withdraw the Iranian presence from Syria, US President Trump and Russian President Putin agree on a partition map for Syria which will allow Iran to establish a military presence just 3 miles from the border with Israel.
After the presidents of the United States and Russia both approved the non-escalation agreement signed in Amman this week, the first draft of the “buffer zone map”, which defines which forces will be allowed to operate in Syria, has been publicized- and has government officials in Jerusalem concerned.
The map is written in English and in Russian and outlines the full deployment of forces in Syria after six years of bloody civil war. The partition map divides the country into a number of zones based on the military force that currently has control of each area.
As per the terms of the agreement, the buffer zones marked in white on the map will be a mere 3 miles from the border with Israel. Though the agreement did say that foreign military forces will be prohibited from entering the buffer zone, it failed to specify which forces would be permitted to enter the area and in what condition.
The agreement will allow the Syrian rebels to remain in the areas marked in gray just beyond the buffer zones on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights- uncomfortably close to the border with Israel. This essentially means that Iran and Hezbollah will be free to establish an unprecedented and undisturbed military presence just a few miles away from Israel- and all this with US and Russian approval.
As reported earlier by JOL, Russia’s RIA news agency said on Tuesday that Moscow insisted that it never promised that the pro-Iranian forces in Syria would retreat and quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying that the Iranian presence in Syria is ‘legitimate’.
Presidents Putin and Trump also agreed that they would be responsible for enforcing the agreement from joint headquarters in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Israel, for its part, was aware that the agreement was being written, but was not party to its drafting or to its terms.
A source in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office responded to rumors of the agreement and said that “yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s position to our friends in Moscow and he said it to President Putin as well. Israel will continue to take care of its security interests in any case and in any situation.”
The Israeli security establishment is not only concerned with the physical distance of the Iranian militias from its border and the presence of its Revolutionary Guards forces in a neighboring country, but also with the newfound reach of Tehran’s influence in the region.