It appears that Washington has given the green light to the Syrian Arab Army's (SAA) southern offensive, although just a few days ago it threatened Damascus and Moscow with "serious repercussions" for what it called the violation of a "de-escalation" agreement for the region bordering Jordan and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
However, on June 24, Reuters broke the news that Washington had told Syrian jihadi rebels in the south that they should not expect it to step in and provide them with military aid amid the Syrian-Russian advance.
Sputnik got it touch with political analyst of Syrian origin Ghassan Kadi and Israeli publicist and political commentator Avigdor Eskin asking them to shed light on Washington's apparent change of heart.
"It is very difficult to understand what is really happening behind the scenes, and there are many conflicting reports to that effect speaking about different 'deals' involving the parties concerned," Kadi told Sputnik. "With or without a deal however, the SAA is making its advances."
The political analyst referred to a "deal," allegedly brokered by Moscow, that "guarantees Israel and the US that positions currently held by terrorists in the Daraa region will only be replaced by regular SAA units and that those liberated areas will be a redline for Hezbollah and any Iranian presence."
"Such a 'deal,' if it exists, could explain the American 'change of heart' you mentioned," Kadi presumed. "Personally, I doubt if such a deal was struck, and I believe that the anti-Syrian government forces do not have a choice but to either sit back and watch the SAA move in or risk a war they are not ready for in that region, a war that could spiral out of control."
"Any war involves risk, and Syria's decision to fend off the invaders back in 2011 involved a very high risk potential, as Syria was taken by surprise and did not have the on-ground support of the allies that it has now," he noted.
For his part, Avigdor Eskin insists that there was no "change of heart" whatsoever: "This is not any major strategic change," he said. "President Trump wants to get out of Syria. One can doubt, how real this is with regards to the Kurdish part of Syria, but it is natural that Washington will not act on behalf of Al-Qaeda* offspring, even if they are violently hostile towards ISIS [Daesh]* for their internal reasons."
The Israeli publicist drew attention to the fact that neither Iranians nor Hezbollah are included in the southern operation by pro-Assad military forces backed by Russia.
"The assault is coordinated with both Washington and Jerusalem [Tel Aviv]," Eskin presumed. "Israel will not prevent Assad's forces from taking positions near the [Israeli] border if Iranians and Hezbollah is not there. We can see it as some positive developments."
As for Washington's flip-flops on whether or not "Assad must go" Eskin opined that the US administrations did not really try to overthrow the Syrian president: "Even during the time of [US President Barack] Obama the approach was two-fold: putting up with [Bashar] Assad for the purpose of struggle against ISIS [Daesh]* and supporting the efforts of Sunni partners to win for themselves greater influence on Syria with different opposition groups which were not Islamic State-oriented*."
Situation Could Still Spiral Out of Control
Commenting on Israel's vocal discontent with the Iranian military presence in Syria, Kadi highlighted that President Assad has repeatedly stressed that formal Iranian presence in Syria is limited to that of experts and consultants and that there are no formal Iranian troops on the ground.
"However, even if we adopt the Israeli narrative about the presence of Iranian troops in Syria, in reality, they would be enough to make Israel uncomfortable, but not under existential threat due to their presence," the political analyst suggested.
Kadi presumed that Tel Aviv's discontent is not limited to the supposed Iranian military presence on the ground in Syria. According to the analyst, Israel "is unhappy that the Syrian government is regaining sovereignty on Syrian soil, especially in the southern regions close to its borders, and will use any excuse to launch attacks on Syrian positions and alleged Iranian positions."
In any event, the Iranian-Israeli standoff in Syria is unlikely to translate into a major conflict, he believes: "In my view, what Israel would be seeking are 'deals' like the alleged 'deal' mentioned earlier, but I don't believe that either Iran or Israel are prepared to risk a full-on confrontation, and it is highly likely that Russia is working very hard behind the scenes to prevent such a scenario."
However, he warned that still "there is a present possibility that the tensions could escalate and spiral out of control" especially if Saudi Arabia and other US regional allies step in to confront Tehran on the ground in Syria.
While Syrian pro-government forces continues their advance on the jihadi positions in the south of Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry refuted the claims about the alleged withdrawal of Russia from the agreement on the southern Syrian de-escalation zone.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Donald Trump have finally agreed the date of their long-anticipated meeting. It is expected that the Syrian problem will be discussed by the presidents among other burning issues. It may shed further light on Washington's strategy in the war-torn region.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State), al-Qaeda are terrorist groups banned in Russia.
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