News this morning that Iranian forces or at least some of them have now pulled back from Israel’s border to a distance of 85 km is welcome news to Jerusalem. Bibi Netanyahu’s close relationship with both Trump and Putin has clearly paid dividends. Iran’s collapsing currency, rising social unrest, and now the cold should from Russia have succeeded in causing mild panic in the Mullah’s. Whether or not they sit down with Trump or not does not matter. Iran has become the first and most tangible result from Trump’s Helsinki summit with Putin.
While there has been some tumult in Israel over President Trump’s comments on meeting with the Ayatollah or President Rouhani, the Iranians are in a completely different place than they were when they negotiated a clearly flawed nuclear deal with John Kerry.
The main catalyst for Iran’s negotiating position with the Obama administration was Putin’s protection of Iran’s advance towards Israel. This gave Iran an inflated sense of strength. Putin has never viewed Iran as a real ally, but rather a piece on his chessboard. With Assad’s regime now back on top in Syria Iran has become far more a liability to Russia than an asset. Putin has allowed Israel to strike Iranian positions with impunity by allowing the IAF access to southern Syria.
None of this means that Iran will completely retreat. There are already reports that Iranian troops and Hezbollah forces have switched into Syrian uniform to remain undetected. Putin may be unable or unwilling to forcibly push them out as they have indicated themselves. However, the Russians like they have been doing thus far will most likely allow Israel to keep punishing the Iranian forces so they are forced to leave on their own.