Ahead of Netanyahu's Moscow visit, the NATO summit, and Trump's summit meeting with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, The New Yorker reported, citing current and former US officials, that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been lobbying to try to convince Trump to remove US sanctions on Russia in exchange for help removing Iranian forces from Syria. According to the magazine, Russian officials were also approached to see if Moscow could be persuaded to talk to the Iranians about the issue.
Last week, pre-empting a series of high-level meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized that expecting a withdrawal of Iranian assistance to Syria would be "absolutely unrealistic," given that Tehran is a key power in the region. Regional powers should instead discuss mutual issues and negotiate a compromise, he noted.
However, Haaretz journalist Zvi Bar'el believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu will nevertheless "try to sell" the idea of an Iranian withdrawal to Putin in exchange for lobbying the Trump administration to remove US sanctions introduced against Moscow following the 2014 Ukrainian crisis.
"It's not inconceivable that Netanyahu will try to sell this idea to Putin. Perhaps the idea will even arise at Putin's summit meeting with Trump on July 16," Bar'el wrote. Israel, the analyst noted, has been trying to lobby Moscow to "oust Iran" from Syria for two years and has been pressuring Trump on the issue as well.
Ultimately, Bar'el stressed that "before anyone entertains the idea of an international persuasion campaign, it's worth considering what Iran itself is willing to do."
"Diplomatic common sense says that Iran would be willing to make concessions in Syria in exchange for cancellation of the new sanctions America has imposed on it and reinstatement of the nuclear deal which Trump scrapped. But this logic contradicts the adamant positions of Trump, Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the nuclear deal," the columnist noted.
Israel boosted its operations in Syria this spring, killing several Iranian military advisors at the T4 air base in Homs province in April. On May 10, the Israeli Air Force launched fresh attacks on dozens of suspected Iranian targets in the country after a rocket attack on IDF positions in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights allegedly launched by pro-Iranian forces. Damascus condemned the attacks, calling them a violation of its airspace and sovereignty. Iran also vowed to respond to "Israeli aggression." Tel Aviv accuses Tehran of building up a military presence in Syria as a springboard to attack Israel. Syria and Iran have denied the claim, stating that Iran's presence is limited to military advisers assisting in the fight against Islamist terrorists.