US delegation in Israel to soothe concerns over Syria ceasefire deal

Visit includes officials from the US national security council

epa06326832 A view of an Israeli army base, on the Israeli-Syrian border, 13 November 2017. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in first reactions to the US, Russia, and Jordan agreement that includes a Russian commitment to remove Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias in Syria from its border with Israel on the Golan Heights Netanyahu said 'I made it clear to Russia and the United States that Israel will continue to act in accordance with its security interest in Syria'.  EPA/ATEF SAFADI
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A US national security delegation arrived in Israel on Tuesday for high-level meetings with Israeli counterparts to discuss the Syria ceasefire deal that Washington has struck with Moscow.

Israel has reservations that not enough is being done to tackle Iran's presence in southern Syria.

According to local media reports, the delegation includes officials from the national security council.

A spokesman said: "We have an important, strategic, strong, collaborative relationship with Israel, and US government delegations routinely visit Israel to coordinate on a wide range of issues.

“US officials will meet with Israeli counterparts to discuss regional security issues, including Syria.”

Israeli daily Haaretz reported that in their meetings the US officials will address Iran's influence and the situation in southern Syria. The US and Russia brokered a ceasefire deal there last July and added a de-escalation agreement last week.

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Tobias Schneider, an international security analyst based in London, said that the US delegation "will be looking to soothe Israeli concerns that Washington hasn't been paying sufficient attention to its ally's security concerns".

“While the US [with Russia] has made the south-west de-escalation zone a priority in its Syria policy, it has no realistic means of actually rolling back Iranian influence across the border,” said Mr Schneider.

The Iranian presence through proxies on Israel’s border is seen “as a major strategic threat and – importantly – increasingly as one that cannot easily be addressed by a paltry few kilometres of buffer near the Golan,” said Mr Schneider.

During the visit, the analyst anticipated that “Israeli officials will likely push the United States for further, more comprehensive action to counter Iran and Hizbollah” and “will be looking at ways of disrupting Hizbollah’s capabilities in the region short of causing a major war – probably through a stepped-up air campaign against missile facilities”.

Mr Schneider described Iranian influence in Syria as “becoming increasingly pervasive”.

“Iran not only runs networks of tens of thousands of militiamen, but also [has] increased its reach in economics and politics,” he said.

According to The Times of Israel, Israel defence forces chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot made a trip to Brussels last Thursday to meet General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of the US army's European command, to discuss Iranian influence in Syria.

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