Israel tried to thwart peace in Syria because of its concerns about Iran's growing power

Officials from Israel tried to derail a planned ceasefire agreement in Syria’s restive south, it has emerged, over worries about Iran’s growing influence in the country. 

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a jointly-brokered truce in the south of the war-torn country on 8 July standing side by side at the G20 conference in Hamburg.

A story carried by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, however, has claimed that just days before, Israeli diplomats had been at loggerheads with their US and Russian counterparts in two high-level secret meetings over the proposed cessation of hostilities and the threat posed by Iran long-term. 

Donald Trump says Iran has helped commit ‘unspeakable crimes’ in Syria

In the early July meetings in Amman and an unnamed European capital to discuss safe zones for Syrian civilians, Israel attempted to dissuade the other officials from their plans because it would give Iran and its proxy forces, including Hezbollah, too much control over the area bordering both Israel and Jordan.

Both Iran and the allied Lebanese militant organisation have sworn the destruction of Israel. Officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv’s main worry as the more than six-year-long conflict next door in Syria has evolved has become Iran’s political influence over the government of Bashar al-Assad, and the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and Shia militias which take part in the fighting. 

Israel reportedly presented “numerous objections to the deal”, arguing that the US and Russia were not focussed enough on the long-term threat of Iranian influence in Syria when the civil war has ended. The US and Russia must demand those forces leave the country when the conflict draws to a close, the Israelis said, arguing that Syria could become home to rockets pointed at Israel, as in Lebanon, and outsized Iranian influence could serve to destablise nearby Sunni states. 

Under Donald Trump, the US’ main foreign policy goal in Syria has become defeating Isis. Mr Putin says the same, although his military assistance is widely acknowledged to have turned the tide of the war in President Assad’s favour. 

Israel and US diplomats speaking on the condition of anonymity told Haaretz that Brett McGurk, the head of the international coalition against Isis, as well as Michael Ratney,  the US envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian envoy for Syria and several top Israeli Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry and Mossad officials were present at the negotiations.

Israeli negotiators were reportedly shocked upon receiving drafts of the agreement which ignored almost all of the country’s positions. 

Israeli officials, including President Benjamin Netanyahu, have been openly critical of the deal since. 

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