Israel at present is considering the repercussions of the US decision to withdraw from Syria, and continues to monitor how it will affect Israeli operations in Syria.
They are keen to learn whether there will be serious consequences for Israel after the withdrawal of its major ally from Syria.
American President Donald Trump made a big surprise for all the parties more or less involved in the matter, when he declared all of a sudden that ISIS has been defeated. As a result, he said, the US mission in Syria is over and there is no reason for the US troops to stay.
For Israel this move is alarming. Israel is concerned with the Iranian threat that it considers imminent as Iranian-backed militias are present and heavily armed.
But does Israel have any reasons to worry about the US withdrawal? What does US President Donald Trump’s move mean to Israel? Such a move will not harm Israel as some have predicted because the decision to withdraw does not mean the United States will leave these areas in Syria.
The military confirm that Washington has given assurances to Israel that the decision does not mean abandonment of those areas as the US has bases in countries close to Syria.
Moreover, withdrawal from Syria does not mean withdrawal from the region. American sources have confirmed that the United States launched a new mili-tary base on the border of the Iraqi city of Anbar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Withdrawal of American forces that are symbolic from a military perspective will affect the balance of power on the ground in non-liberated areas in North Eastern part of Syria.
While the situation in Syria remains imbalanced and unstable, this better serves Israeli interests as it provides Tel Aviv with a significant margin for maneuvers and actions aimed to secure itself from Iranian threatsMaria Dubovikova
Just a review
The sudden announcement is nothing more than a review by the US president of military expenses. The reality on the ground suggests that it is very difficult for American troops to keep training other forces, at lower cost, at a time when other loyal factions can handle it and implement what is planned.
Nevertheless, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian president Vladimir Putin on January 4, 2019 to discuss the developments in Syria, considering the ramifications of American pullout from Syria, fight against terrorism and the necessity to strengthen bilateral coordination and cooperation via military and diplomatic channels.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel is determined to continue its efforts to block Iran from establishing its presence in Syria. Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iran and Iran-backed militias’ sites, trying to prevent Iran from establishing a kind of fort-post for its further alleged attacks on the Jewish state.
In circumstances of the US even relative withdrawal, the importance of Russia for Israel is increasing in relation to what is happening in Syria. In such circumstances, Russia appears the vital player being able to contain Iran in Syria.
Though Russia has been expressing anger over Israeli movements and attacks on Syria, one of which cost lives of Russian officers and a crash of Russia’s military jet, Moscow has been allowing Israel to go with whatever it has been doing so far without any “punishment”.
Russia needs Israel in its global foreign policy strategies, and Israel knows this; thus, Tel Aviv blackmails and abuses Moscow for this purpose, especially at a time Russia is under sanctions.
Israel needs Russia now not only because of Iran that makes Israel feel threatened but Turkey as well. Erdogan’s image in the Middle East and his popularity is growing, even among Arabs.
Turkish president does not miss any chance to target Israel and its leadership in his speeches, blaming Israel for the chaos in the region. Taking into account that both Israeli allies, Moscow and Washington, have more or less good ties with Turkey, Israel is looking forward to use both channels to contain Turkey.
Furthermore, according to some Russian sources, among other topics, Netanyahu and Putin have been discussing S-300 anti-air missiles which have been deployed in Syria recently shortly after the downing of a Russian military jet.
The Israelis asked Russia to move the S-300 batteries in Tartus to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor, adjacent to the Iraqi border.
While the situation in Syria remains imbalanced and unstable, this better serves Israeli interests as it provides Tel Aviv with a significant margin for maneuvers and actions aimed to secure itself from Iranian threats.
This plays in the hand of Israel as it leaves Tel Aviv a significant marge of maneuvers in terms of its national borders and security protection policies. Furthermore Israel is looking to keep the Golan Heights exclusively for itself and considers Syrian instability as helpful.
Israel is purely balancing between the US and Russia and is trying to pursue its own agenda manipulating both Washington and Moscow.
Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub), expert of Valdai Club and RIAC (Russian International Affairs Council). Twitter: @politblogme.