A lot has happened in the last few weeks in Syria and in some of the interrelated files, however, two important events were of vital importance; the withdrawal of the U.S. from the P5+1 agreement (Iran nuclear deal) and the military confrontation between Syria and Israel.
To put things into proper context, it is highly likely that the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s administration from the nuclear agreement was due to the political pressure from the Israeli government and the Jewish lobby in the U.S. represented by AIPAC. No rational person could believe the theatrical presentation of Benjamin Netanyahu on the alleged military nuclear program of Iran, a claim that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) doesn’t buy.
Originally, the purpose of P5+1 agreement was to address the Iranian nuclear program, therefore other issues, such as Iran’s growing influence in the region were off the table. Hence, it is likely that Trump’s recent declaration to leave the agreement is aimed to renegotiate the terms of the agreement at a later stage with the goal of reaching a more comprehensive deal that better serves the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia, particularly Iran’s role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. However, Iran said it will not accept to renegotiate and this could empower the conservatives in Iran once again, by proving the point that the U.S. is not a reliable partner.
Iran-Syria alliance goes back to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, but the relations between Damascus and Tehran dramatically improved especially after Egypt left the Arab-Israeli conflict by signing a peace agreement with Israel on 17 September 1978, leaving Syria alone in the face of Israeli occupation forces. These relations witnessed many ups and few downs until the crisis of 2011 when Iran engaged in the conflict by providing political and logistical support to the Syrian government and then sent military advisors and some troops to Syria to back the Syrian Army fight against global jihadi terrorism. The Iranian presence in Syria has justified thanks to the defense pact signed in 2005 between Damascus and Tehran. Nowadays, Iran supports Syria financially, and especially in the form of hard currencies (dollar and euro), in addition to solid military support in the form of weapons, ammunition, military advisory and even troops. Therefore, Syria regards Iran as a reliable partner in the fight against jihadi groups.
Without any doubt, the U.S. wants to see Iran out of the Syrian scene, where Washington can seek for certain arrangements with Russia. This explains three important events:
A- the orchestrated internal turbulence in Iran a few months ago to isolate Iran in its internal borders
B- Trump leaving Iran nuclear agreement
C- Israel’s PR machine to sell the narrative that Iran is going to attack Israel from Syria
All these factors aim at removing or at the minimum level sidelining Iran from any future solution in Syria. However, the recent experiences prove that the ones holding the Syrian cards are Russia, Iran, and Turkey, namely in Astana and Sochi agreements with the full backing of Syria. Geneva I and Geneva II communique are on their way to be put on the shelf for good. Therefore, in the current circumstances, the U.S is unlikely to be able to change the forming equations on the ground. The balance of power is in favor of Syria and its allies.
Finally, on the eve of May 10, some pundits claimed that the confrontation was between Iran and Israel. Wrong. There was NO exchange of fire between Iran and Israel. All offensive and defensive missiles launched from Syria on the occupied Golan Heights were by the Syrian Army. Iran was not involved in the military retaliation. It is Israel who is promoting this false narrative through its PR outlets to legitimize its aggression against Syria.
However, the incident itself was the biggest of its kind since the Agreement on Disengagement between Israel and Syria that was signed on May 31, 1974, which officially ended the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and it is likely that similar exchange of fire would happen in the near future, particularly when the Syrian Army and its allies advance forward to the southern city of Daraa, where the proxies of Israel fighting the Syrian Army since 2012.
Kevork Almassian is the founder of Syriana Analysis