Russian envoy says Iranian forces have withdrawn from Golan border


Iranian forces and Shia militias have withdrawn from the Golan border, according to President Vladimir Putin’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev.

Lavrentiev also told the TASS news agency that Iranian personnel could be among Syrian army forces that remain close to the Israeli border. He insisted there would be no “heavy equipment or weapons” that could pose a threat to Israel within 85km of the Israeli border.

Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio: “We are not ready to see a new Hezbollah front on our northern border between Israel and Syria. This is something that is dangerous. This is something that, if we don’t prevent it today, when still at its outset, will exact a heavy price on us down the line.”

On Monday Russian Ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, said that Moscow could not compel Iran to leave Syria.

In a recent Strategic Assessment, BICOM Visiting Senior Fellow Michael Herzog wrote that Russia’s implicit message to Israel is: “We’ll take care of Iran in the south. As for the rest of Syria, we leave it to you to take action against the Iranians, if you deem it necessary.”

He says that “in recent years and months Russia has usually turned a blind eye to Israeli initiatives targeting Iran and its proxies in Syria”. “Russia’s only concern has been that Israeli actions do not endanger Russian troops or assets, do not bring about a major escalation that could undermine a political outcome and do not target or seek to undercut the Assad regime,” he added.

President Bashar al-Assad said yesterday that his army would soon take control over all of Syria. “We are about to announce a crushing victory,” he wrote in a letter commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of Syrian army. “We have reached stability and security in most regions, from Homs to Palmyra… and other areas where terror was established with logistical and financial support over seven and a half years ago.”

Ongoing negotiations with fighters of the Al-Nusra Front on the outskirts of Quneitra Governorate continue and pending their surrender, the Assad regime will have captured all of southern Syria.