According to the influential Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, the nearest future will witness a Jerusalem meeting of national security secretaries of the United States, Russia and Israel John Bolton, Nikolai Patrushev, Meir Ben Shabat respectively.
The primary objective of the trilateral talks is an attempt to convince Russia of the necessity to make Syria stop Iran's military presence and limit its influence in that country. The leaderships of Israel and the United States define Iran as the main threat to the security of the Jewish state and the entire region.
According to the Israelis, there are currently up to 8 thousand troops of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Syria and more than 15 thousand members of pro-Iranian Shiite groups mainly from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. A considerable proportion of these forces is combating against anti-government units in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone or conducts the mission of deterring the enemy in other parts of the country (in the eastern part of the Damascus and Deir ez-Zor provinces).
Military advisers and technical specialists of the IRGC are engaged in planning military operations, providing military supplies and assisting the Syrian military in mastering weapons and military equipment supplied. Ad hoc groups of Iranians are occupied with the material supplies for the Hezbollah Shiite organization of Lebanon.
When obtaining intelligence information, Israel is regularly conducting strike operations against the Syrian military targets which receive separate weapon consignments from Iran for the Lebanese Shiites. But a fundamental aversion of Iranian supplies to Lebanon appears impossible.
Unlike the United States and Turkey, Iran's military presence in the territory of Syria is quite legitimate: the countries have long had an agreement on mutual military assistance, and IRGC units were brought to the country in 2013 at the Syrian government's request.
At the same time, Iran is a state that, despite the sanctions, provides material and financial assistance to Syria on contractual terms. It is therefore reasonable that the Iranians have received significant preferences for their military and economic activity from the Syrian government. In particular, Iran got a concession for the use, modernization and infrastructure development of the Latakia seaport, the construction of new gas and oil terminals, unimpeded entry of its commercial and other vessels.
Washington and Tel Aviv believe that Moscow is able to reduce Tehran's influence in Syria. Thus, in August 2018, Russia was a key contributor to IRGC command's taking Iranian and pro-Iranian police units 140 km away from the Golan Heights and the Jordan border. In a short span of time, 145 units of other weapons and military equipment were withdrawn from territories of the Daraa and Quneitra governorates.
The Americans and Israelis believe to have efficient leverage opportunities on Russia and Syria in order to implement their ideas. So, in return for the withdrawal of Iranian forces, they promise Damascus to lift economic sanctions, to restore the freedom of investing in the national economy, to promote a fully legitimate restoration of the country's membership in all the international and regional political alliances, to ensure the return of refugees to their home…
The preferences for Russia are not reported: apparently, there are separate suggestions to bid for. However, it would be interesting to know the amount of money the Americans and Israelis are ready to evaluate the Russian "act of grace" for.
Anyway, this looks like a pie in the sky. Promises, commitments, good manners... All the decisions on imposing or lifting sanctions fall under the responsibility of the US Congress, and even senior State Department official John Bolton is not empowered to solve them. Even provided that Israel has significant influence in the government and the Senate of the United States. That is the first.
Second. Syria itself as a central figure has been excluded from the negotiation process. It is of course to be understood that no agreements will have a legal status, and the parties will be free to fulfill their obligations.
And one last thing. Who does believe the Americans today?
We cannot say that relations between Russia and Iran are absolutely cloudless. However, there is no doubt that Iran is playing a significant positive role in Syria, without which Russia would face a lot more difficulties. Betraying Syria and Iran is betraying yourself. Moscow will never tolerate a deal like that!
And the very last thing. Not everything is smooth in the US and Israel because of their active saber rattling in the region: it is not so obvious who is more afraid of a war with Iran. And what if Tehran really blocks movement in the Strait of Hormuz for many years? What will happen then to the economy of the US-Israeli allies in the Arab Peninsula?