"Figuring it out for three people" in Jerusalem / News / News agency Inforos
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"Figuring it out for three people" in Jerusalem

The Patrushev–Bolton–Ben-Shabbat meeting may lead to new agreements between Russia and the United States on the Iranian presence in Syria

"Figuring it out for three people" in Jerusalem

There isn't much time left before the Jerusalem meeting between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, scheduled for late June. Its agenda is still unknown at the same time, with officials only making vague statements about discussing regional problems.

This will be the first meeting in such a format. Earlier, Nikolai Patrushev and John Bolton have already discussed a number of issues in the course of bilateral talks: the START-3, the NPT and other deals relating to weapons of mass destruction. However, there is still a number of other agreements, especially the breakthrough ones, to be reached. This, however, does not prevent some observers from deliberating on the possible "major deal" following the Jerusalem dialogue involving Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Thus, as the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported earlier, the US and Israeli representatives intend to make an offer to their Russian colleague, under which the Americans will lift sanctions from Damascus and recognize Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy. In exchange, Moscow will have to restrain Iranian influence in Syria. This information was later denied by Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov.

It is highly possible that the publication does really indulge in wishful thinking. Although Asharq al-Awsat has been around long enough, is headquartered in London and considered pan-Arab, the newspaper is funded by Saudi Arabia – Iran's key rival in the region, or even enemy if you like. Nevertheless, there's too much smoke not to be fire, and the Iranian issue is one of a handful (if not the only one) that can be discussed in this format. Besides, Moscow and Washington have already reached an agreement on the Iranian presence in Syria. What is meant here is the one between presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on establishing a de-escalation zone in the country's south-west. Among other things, it stipulated the withdrawal of all the non-Syrian forces, primarily the Iranian military and units of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement for several tens of kilometers from this zone. And after those areas returned to Damascus, the Iranians and their loyal forces had to find themselves over a considerable distance from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

So, in theory, with due regard to the past experience, there is every chance to find common ground. At the same time, we should not forget that the case in hand is potential agreements between certain countries concerning the other. And Iran is not the one whom the saying "the absent party's fate is great" can be applied to. Even when establishing the de-escalation zone, all the processes were strictly coordinated with Tehran. Now, despite the sanctions and the unprecedented pressure America is exerting on the Islamic Republic, this coordination is also unlikely to be avoided. Besides, Damascus should also be reckoned with. And it considers Iran as the most reliable ally and protector. Not Russia, because Moscow rubs elbows with Israel and has to choose between it and Syria every once in a while (and the choice is obvious for a variety of reasons). How much better for Tehran.

Neither is the situation simple with the United States, namely with the American President, who still has the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Even though Robert Mueller's investigation is over, having revealed no Russian involvement in Donald Trump's election campaign, agreements with Moscow will certainly prompt another fever pitch in America. Unless the acting President's opponents are cooled down by an argument that all the agreements aim to ensure the security of Israel.

That is, there are quite enough hidden hazards in this regard. But this is hardly a reason to give up on finding mutual understanding. In addition, the situation in Syria is becoming a stalemate: the conflict seems to have no end in sight and there is no sizeable progress as regards its settlement. However, it is not necessarily right that the Patrushev – Bolton – Ben-Shabbat meeting will entail this kind of progress after all. One can only assume that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took pains to win the election but failed to form a government, will definitely become the winning party. Ahead of the repeat vote, a meeting of this scope in Jerusalem will surely bring him more political points, even if it falls flat.

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