Israeli officials believe that the Trump administration is close to reaching an agreement with the Russian government on a comprehensive ceasefire and post-war political deal for Syria.
According to a senior Israeli source: “It is clear we are close to an arrangement. The Russians have a clear interest to reach one now that the Assad regime’s survival has been assured and the jihadists, particularly Daesh, are on the back foot in Syria. All that is required is an American decision.”
According to Israeli intelligence sources, while the Russians criticised the Trump administration two months ago for launching a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, the understanding in Moscow was that it was a one-off.
Russian forces in Syria did not change their deployment in the wake of the US attack and despite a brief war of words, an understanding between the Putin government and the Trump administration remained in effect.
According to reports this week in the American media, it was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser who, in the weeks following Mr Trump’s election victory last November, set up the initial back channel with the Russians. The media reports also claim that Syria was one of the main subjects of discussion.
In recent weeks, the US has begun arming the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-dominated group, that is preparing to attack the isolated Daesh stronghold in Raqqa. Turkey’s government, which sees the SDF as allies of the outlawed PKK movement, has objected to this move, but Russia is expected to support the Raqqa operation.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has talked to both Presidents Putin and Trump, to urge them that Iran and Hezbollah not be allowed to establish permanent strongholds in post-war Syria.