The Syrian ‘deal of the century’

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Why is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “very interested in the Trump-Putin summit?” It is because “he hopes they will reach the real deal of the century,” – a deal that has nothing to do with a solution to the Palestinian cause or to the so-called deal of the century.

So what’s the deal of the century which Netanyahu dreams about? It is for Trump to accept Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula and East Ukraine and lift the sanctions imposed on it while allowing Putin to control Syria, and in exchange Putin expels the Iranians and their followers from Syria thus granting Netanyahu a historic victory.


This is what Nahum Barnea, editor of Political Affairs in Yedioth Ahronoth, said. However, despite the major regional and international transformations, he skeptically said: “They’re relying on Putin in Israel. I am not confident that they are counting on the right man. Israel’s real card in Syria may be Assad”.

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“He now needs Russian fighter jets and militias that are commanded by Iran but after Assad controls the entire of Syria and emerges as the major victor in the civil war, he will want to go back to being the only ruler. ‘The Iranian did his part and must leave now’ is how his father would have acted. Late Hafez al-Assad is the only enemy which Israel misses.”

This is Barnea’s opinion. However, the Crimea and East Ukraine conflict is a strategic issue to the US, and it is unlikely that Trump will give up on them just for Syria’s sake and if there aren’t more important agreements.

Why would the Americans concede Crimea and East Ukraine to Moscow and above all that reward it with Syria? These American concessions in exchange of coaxing Moscow against Iran seem like a very generous “deal of the century” for Russia, unless we see a better price!

American concessions in exchange of coaxing Moscow against Iran seem like a very generous “deal of the century” for Russia

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Commitments to Syria

The nature of Russia’s commitments to Syria is also not clear. We’ve seen an important development in the past few days when the Iranians and their militias were prohibited from participating in the battle in the Daraa governorate and Golan in compliance with Israel’s conditions.

The Russian military police replaced the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This American-Israeli-Russian-Syrian cooperation to exclude Iran from the South is one of its kind. What else? Will the Russians accept the second phase, of fighting the Iranians, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militias if they refuse to voluntarily leave Syria?

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Of course, but before that we have to hear Assad himself commanding the Iranians to leave. The Israelis are saying Assad does not want to do so or cannot. Washington had tested him when it proposed that all foreign troops, including American, Turkish and Iranian ones, exit Syrian territories but Damascus only approved of the exit of Turkish and American troops from the country.

So what does Netanyahu see that we don’t? Maybe he thinks there is a unique chance to end the Golan dispute in exchange of supporting the Assad regime to be in control over all of Syria.

Syria before 2011

We are thus facing a completely new situation as Syria today is different from Syria before 2011. The country can be rebuilt with establishing political axes that get Iran out of Sham and weaken it in the region, including in Lebanon.

This is why the Israeli author doubts the possibility of a solution and says that they miss Hafez al-Assad because he’s capable on playing all sides. It was Hafez who paved way to transfer and settle Palestinian fighters from Jordan to Lebanon then dispatched his troops to Lebanon under the excuse of ending the fighting.

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He later contributed to getting rid of Palestinian fighters after his dispute with them and after Israel insisted to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization and its chief Arafat.

Hafez al-Assad kept the Palestinians away and brought the Iranians into Lebanon, which was under his protection. He then controlled Iran’s product Hezbollah and used it to maintain balance with Israel.

Netanyahu thinks it’s now possible to hunt several birds, the Iranian presence, Lebanon, Golan and ending the state of war with the real deal of the century.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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