• Russia can mediate a grand bargain on Syria – Indian Punchline
    By M K Bhadrakumar – July 6, 2018

    The prevailing impression is that Russia plays a hugely influential role in the Syrian conflict. But it is equally the case that there are serious limits to what Russia can do and/or is willing to do to influence the future trajectory of the conflict.
    Russia and the US have managed through joint efforts to bring the conflict in southwestern Syria to an end. This has been possible because the Syrian government forces undertook the operations against extremist groups in Daraa province without involving the Iranian military advisors or Hezbollah (overtly, at least.) In turn, this provided Israel with a a face-saving pretext to swallow the bitter pill – namely, accept the fait accompli of the decimation of its proxy groups in the border region with Syria.
    However, Israel still swears that it will ensure the rollback of Iranian presence in all of Syria. PM Netanyahu is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 11 to discuss the subject ahead of the Helsinki summit on July 16 between President Trump and Putin.
    What are the prospects of Russia playing ball with Israel and Trump to “evict” the Iranians from Syrian soil? Frankly, “zero”. When asked for comment on the subject at a media interaction in Moscow on July 4, this is how Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded:

    Let us first agree on some basic things. There are many non-Syrian forces in Syria. Some of them stay there with the agreement of the legitimate Syrian government, a UN member-country, while others stay there illegally, in violation of the principles of international law.