Israel remains concerned about Iranian influence in southern Syria, despite high level discussions between US and Israeli security officials in Washington last week.
The Israeli delegation that visited Washington last week included Yossi Cohen, head of the Israeli external intelligence agency Mossad, and the head of IDF Military Intelligence were discouraged by the US position on Syria.
The delegation were sent to the US to warn against military deployments by Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian regime, and to tell the US “exactly what is going on there” according to officials.
An Israeli media report noted that the delegation shared “sensitive, credible and deeply troubling intelligence,” showing the expanding deployment of Iranian forces in Syria, which estimates put at 500 Iranian army soldiers, 5,000 Hezbollah fighters and several thousand guerrillas from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
American officials reportedly refrained from pledging that they would insist on the removal of all pro-Iranian militias from Syria in the cease-fire talks currently under way with Russia.
The Israeli report noted that Israeli officials are worried the US might be hamstrung on the Syrian issue due to “the domestic problems President Trump is currently mired in, as well as the crisis with North Korea”.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, to discuss developments in the region, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Russia is a signatory to the ceasefire agreement that was signed during the G20 summit in July between the US and Jordan. According to the agreement, Russia is responsible for ensuring that forces under its influence – the Syrian regime, Iran and Iranian proxies – will abide by its terms.
The unresolved issues of who would guarantee the arrangements in the de-escalation zones, prevent the entry of Iranian, Hezbollah or Shi’ite militia forces, and monitor the cease-fire are high on the agenda for the Netanyahu-Putin meeting.