Return of 2018 Agreement: Talks Aimed at Avoiding Syria-Israel Escalation

The UAE is currently engaged in dialogue with both the Syrian regime and Russia to revive the provision calling for the removal of Iranian militias from the Golan Heights, according to Syria TV.

Syria TV has obtained information from diplomatic sources regarding ongoing multilateral discussions aimed at reinstating the terms of the 2018 settlement in Syria. This agreement notably entailed the withdrawal of Iranian militias from the Golan border to a depth of 85 kilometres. The initiative gained momentum as the United States of America, alongside certain regional nations, committed to halting support for the Syrian opposition. Furthermore, Russia has assumed the role of a guarantor for effectively implementing these agreements.

Sources indicate that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key participant in the original settlement, is currently engaged in dialogue with both the Syrian regime and Russia. Their objective is to revive the provision calling for the removal of Iranian militias from the Golan Heights. This diplomatic effort is motivated by a desire to preempt potential military actions by Israel, such as border incursions into Syria, and to avert the need for Israel to take unilateral measures in removing the militias.

Russian opportunity 

On November 29th, 2023, Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, issued a warning during a session of the UN Security Council about Russia’s potential involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He spoke of the risk of Syria being drawn into a large-scale confrontation without further details.

Simultaneously, the Charge d’affaires of the Syrian regime’s delegation to the United Nations appealed to the Security Council to halt Israeli attacks on Syrian territory, emphasizing the repeated strikes on Damascus International Airport.

Sources familiar with the matter informed Syria TV that despite the threats made at the Security Council, the Syrian regime and Russia have an agreement not to escalate tensions with Israel on Syrian soil. Their rationale is rooted in a desire to maintain stability, avoid exposing regime forces to heightened risks, and prevent destabilization.

Iran Renews Denial: We Have Nothing to Do with Attacks on U.S. Bases in Syria

These sources emphasized that while Russia does not obstruct the transfer of personnel and weaponry by the Revolutionary Guards to Syria, it has not yet consented to the transfer of advanced equipment such as air defence systems or precision-guided missiles. Notably, Russia has opened the Hmeimim and Palmyra airports to Iran for equipment transfers.

The sources suggest that Russia perceives the regional escalation as an opportunity to reclaim its role as a guarantor of Israel’s security. This strategic move is driven by the hope that Israel will cease its intelligence support to Ukraine. Russia aims to capitalize on its improved relations with Tel Aviv and leverage its active lobbyists in the United States and the West to influence the level of support provided to Ukraine.

From 2016 until the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war in early 2022, Moscow and Tel Aviv maintained a robust channel of communication and effective coordination on Syrian territory. This collaboration allowed Israel to conduct precise airstrikes against Iranian militias. In return, Israel influenced Washington’s decisions within certain regional contexts, persuading some countries to cease support for the Syrian opposition, particularly in the southern region. However, this coordination significantly deteriorated after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Iranian position 

There is a possibility that Iran might demonstrate an understanding of the interests of the Syrian regime, as it seeks to strengthen its relationships with regional and international entities. Iran may not be averse to genuinely reducing its military activities in southern Syria, opting instead to integrate more discreetly within the official structures of the Syrian regime.

Throughout the escalation in Gaza, Tehran has displayed a reluctance to involve itself or its proxies in an extended confrontation. Notably, Iran consistently denied responsibility for attacks against U.S. forces in the Red Sea, Iraq, and northeastern Syria. It’s worth mentioning that these attacks posed minimal threats to the lives of American soldiers. The frequency and intensity of these attacks decreased notably after the initiation of indirect communication channels between Washington and Tehran, facilitated by the Sultanate of Oman. There is speculation about the potential for the United States to grant Iran additional exemptions, coupled with the release of new funds from Iraq’s banks. This suggests that Tehran is amenable to negotiations that could yield more significant benefits for itself or its proxies.

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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