According to Saudi-owned news sources, the two countries spoke through a Jordanian intermediary about staying uninvolved in internal Syrian fighting.
The IDF’s Givati brigade holds training exercises in the Golan Heights Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
According to the Saudi newspaper Elaph, representatives from Iran and Israel met in Jordan over the weekend in order to negotiate an accord regarding the two countries’ hostilities in Syria. Over the past few weeks, Israel has targeted multiple Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria through IAF airstrikes. Iranian soldiers also fired rockets on IDF soldiers a few weeks ago for the first time in the two countries’ history. The escalation of the two countries’ military exchanges in Syria has been the subject of much trepidation from both countries’ governments.
According to the unconfirmed Saudi report, the negotiations were apparently conducted in a Jordanian hotel via the aid of the Jordanian ambassador. The report also claims that the Deputy Head of the Mossad was present for the negotiations.
Based on the report, the Iranians agreed to remain uninvolved in the ongoing hostilities between Russian-friendly pro-Assad Syrian militants and the Syrian insurgent groups battling them. Throughout the Syrian civil war, which has to date claimed around 400,000 lives, Iran has maintained strategic involvement in supporting the Russian-backed forces. In return for Iran’s pledge not to interfere, Israel reportedly pledged not to intervene in Syrian hostilities around the tri-border area of Israel, Lebanon and Syria, but only as long as neither Hezbollah nor Iranian-backed militias are involved.
Jordan’s involvement in these negotiations apparently comes with its own interests. According to the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, any military threats to Jordan allow Israel to take unilateral action in protecting the country. Jordan’s interest is to avoid the hostilities spreading to its borders, and the heavy losses Iranian forces have experienced from alleged Israeli airstrikes were all apparent factors in pushing Iran to the negotiating table.
Neither the Israeli nor the Iranian governments have confirmed the results of the negotiations or that the talks even took place. However, multiple other independent sources have confirmed that Israel and Iran have been engaged in steady indirect negotiations over the past few days, apparently passing a large number of messages through the Jordanian intermediary. The negotiations came to a head after Israeli jet fighters allegedly killed more than a dozen pro-Assad forces on Thursday.
Some security analysts have speculated that in dealing with the fallout from the US’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord, Iran may be seeking to limit the number of fronts in which it is currently fighting. While vowing to take revenge for Israeli airstrikes earlier this month, the Iranian government now seems keener on postponing hostilities until a more convenient date.
There is, however, no doubt in most security analysts’ mind that Iran will not stray from its mission to solidify a strategic military foothold in Syria. Whether Israel will continue to target Iranian targets it deems a threat or not will largely depend on how aggressively Iran pursues its mission in Syria.
Michael Herzog, a former IDF brigadier general, explained that “obviously, Israel and Iran have been on a collision course in Syria due to Tehran’s push to transform the arena into a military front. But to determine the answer, it will take more than one round [of fighting] to see where things stand. Iran has suffered a blow and is probably learning its lessons and deciding what course of action to take. And it may be that such will not originate from Syria.”
“For Israel, the need is to stop the Iranian entrenchment and, in this respect, more time is needed to assess. Iran still has significant military deployments there, so it is not over,” Herzog concluded.