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June 1, 2018 10:19 am

Russia Gives Israel ‘Green Light’ to Strike Iranian Positions in Syria, Saudi News Outlet Reports

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A column of smoke arising from a reported Israeli strike on a military target near Damascus, Syria, May 10, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Omar Sanadiki.

Russia has offered Israel a “green light” to carry out military operations against Iranian forces in Syria so long as troops loyal to Moscow’s ally, the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, are not targeted, a leading Saudi newspaper reported on Friday.

Talks between top Israeli and Russian officials had “produced agreements concerning the South of Syria, stipulating the withdrawal of Iranian-linked forces from the area and offering Israel a green light to launch military operations against any threatening target, except regime forces positions,” Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Moscow on Thursday to discuss Iran’s presence in Syria. Lieberman was reported to have said that “Israel greatly appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs, especially regarding the situation on our northern border.”

A Russian source quoted in the report said that Moscow would now have to take care not to alienate the Tehran regime — the other main backer of Assad. “Russia is somehow embarrassed because talks with the Israelis mainly focus on a plan to remove Iran and its forces from southern Syria,” the source observed.

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In the process of bolstering the Assad regime, Iran and Russia have developed a strategic and economic partnership. However, the current level of trade between the two countries — estimated at $3.5 billion over the next three years — is notably short of the stated goal of $15 billion in annual commerce which Russian and Iranian officials committed to in an agreement reached in 2014.

Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin were reported to have discussed the Syrian situation by phone on Thursday, with a similar focus on restricting Iranian movements in Syria and enabling Israel to take military action it deems necessary. Israel has hit Iranian targets in Syria at least twice over the last four weeks, with one strike on May 10 described by the IDF as its “most extensive” operation in Syria in decades.

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