Top US senator warns Israel against deal with Russia over Syria
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Top US senator warns Israel against deal with Russia over Syria

‘I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria,’ former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham tells ‘friends in Israel’ in pointed tweet

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

This file photo taken on March 20, 2017, shows US Senator Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
This file photo taken on March 20, 2017, shows US Senator Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

A senior US lawmaker early Thursday warned Israel against making a deal with Russia on the future of Syria.

“To our friends in Israel — be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests,” tweeted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a former Republican presidential candidate.

“I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence,” he added.

A withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be a “major disaster for Kurdish allies, U.S. interests and regional stability,” he said.

Graham’s comment came amid speculation that US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, are considering a deal about the future of Syria at their upcoming bilateral summit in Helsinki.

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro concurred with the Republican senator.

“Senator Graham is absolutely right here,” he wrote on this Twitter account. “But he ignores that Trump is trying to cook up a ‘deal’ that lets US troops leave Syria, relies on flimsy Russian promises to expel Iran, and pays for all this in European currency — Ukraine sanctions, Crimea annexation, weaker NATO/EU.”

Graham “should be addressing his complaint to the White House, more than to the Israelis,” added Shapiro, a visiting fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Trump has said in the past that he aims to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met with Putin in Moscow to discuss Iran’s ongoing effort to establish itself militarily in Syria, something Israel has vowed to prevent by all means.

“Our view that Iran needs to leave Syria is well-known; it is not new to you,” Netanyahu told the Russian president, according a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Meeting with Putin hours after a Syrian drone entered Israeli airspace and was shot down by the Israeli Air Force, Netanyahu vowed to “continue to take strong action against any trickle [of fire] and any infiltration into Israel’s airspace or territory.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (AFP/Pool/Yuri Kadobnov)

Russian-Israeli cooperation “is a central component in preventing a conflagration and deterioration of these and other situations,” Netanyahu said.

A senior official in Netanyahu’s entourage to Moscow later told Israeli reporters that Russia has started to push the removal of Syrian forces from Israel’s border.

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