JERUSALEM, Israel – A trilateral agreement signed by the United States, Russia and Jordan over the weekend, which calls for a ceasefire in southern Syria, has Israel concerned.
Following a meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, a State Department official said the Memorandum of Principles (MoP), "enshrines the commitment of the U.S., Russia and Jordan to eliminate the presence of non-Syrian foreign forces."
He added, "That includes Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias like Lebanese Hezbollah as well as foreign jihadis working with Jabhat al-Nusrah and other extremist groups from the southwest area [of Syria]."
Author and Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer told CBN News what we're hearing about so far fails to take Israel's security needs into account.
"We don't yet have all the details, but what officials believe is that it falls quite a bit short of what Israel would want," Spyer said. "Talk of a possible de-escalation agreement in which any military forces would be 40 to 50 kilometers [25 to 31 miles] from the border appears now to be 4 to 5 kilometers [2.5 to 3 miles]. What we're hearing about fails to effectively take into account Israel's security needs."
Spyer said the trilateral agreement signed over the weekend is the next stage of the de-escalation announced in July.
"The bigger picture is that Russians have a relatively small presence on the ground in Syria so it's questionable whether the Russians could deliver the Iranians even if they wanted to," he said.
Meanwhile, the BBC, quoting Western intelligence sources, published a report on what appears to be the construction of a permanent Iranian military base outside El-Kiswah, eight south of Damascus and 35 miles north of the Israeli-Syrian border. If, in fact, it is a military base, it will put Israeli population centers within easy range of rocket and missile fire.
According to the BBC report, satellite images attest to ongoing construction at the site between January and October of this year.
And it doesn't stop there. According to a report in al Arabiya posted by JNi media, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) have been building a new militia in Syria for the past five years, headquartered 40 miles north of the border with Israel, which it calls Brigade 313.
According to that report, Iran, backed by Russia, has managed to put Israel within easy striking distance of IRG forces as well.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will not let that happen."
It may be that the monies provided Iran following the signing of the U.S.-led nuclear deal, has given the Islamic Republic the additional funding it needed to put Israel in its crosshairs.