This is interesting:
Russia is working to move Iranian forces and their proxies 100 km. from the Syrian border with Israel, a senior diplomatic official said Monday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
The Israeli official said Jerusalem’s goal is to remove Iran from all of Syria, and if Moscow wants to deal in the first phase with the buffer zone, then that is fine, “but that does not satisfy us even in the first phase, because they [Iran] have weapons [in Syria] that go beyond that range.”
It’s interesting because Russia appears to be in a position to agree with Israel how close to their border Iranian proxy forces go. There were no Iranians in the meeting; presumably they were waiting outside the door to get their instructions from Lavrov once he emerged.
As it happens, Israel rejected the offer:
“We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Israel’s air force will not cease its operations to protect Israeli citizens as long as Iranian forces possess the capability to fire long-range missiles at Israeli targets,” the senior official said. Location in Syria does not matter, because long-range weapons are positioned well outside the 100-kilometer zone.
“Iran wants to turn Syria into a second Lebanon,” he noted. “And we’re determined to prevent that,” rather than wait until Iran has hundreds and thousands of missiles in Syria.
I’ve said before that Russia could have a positive role in keeping the peace between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria, and their latest offer seems to support that theory. Relations between Russia and Iran have always been rocky, based more on common enemies and a need to buy and sell weaponry than mutual friendship. If we assume Russia wants to be top dog in Syria once Assad regains control of the place, they need to send a clear message to the Iranians to fall into line. Furthermore, there was this:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chastised Iran on Monday for calling for Israel’s destruction during a panel discussion in Moscow where Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was sitting with him on the dais.
“We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests,” Lavrov said in Moscow at the Valdai International Discussion Club conference entitled “Russia in the Middle East: Playing on All Fields.”
I expect this brought considerable comfort to Israeli ears, probably more so than anything said by Barack Obama over his two terms. Despite the rhetoric emerging from Iran’s leadership, they have very few friends right now and can’t afford to fall out with Russia. Russia knows this, which is why they’re ordering them around. I don’t see this as a bad thing.