Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates privately lobbied President Donald Trump to broker a diplomatic deal where Russia would curb Iranian gains in Syria in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Moscow as a result of its actions in Ukraine.
The private conversations occurred just before Trump’s election in 2016, according to a report by the New Yorker. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed introduced the idea to “a longtime American interlocutor”, the news site reported.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, proposed the administration work with Putin to push for the Iranians to leave Syria. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it a priority to court Russia over its military intervention in Syria in 2015. Netanyahu wanted guarantees that Israel would have easy access to Syria’s airspace, which was being controlled by Russia.
In a strategy to influence Moscow the tripartite block – Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – began investing billions of dollars in Russia. This led to high-flying commercial meetings across the tripartite countries. But vying for the Syria prospect has not come about so easily. The US administration is set to talk with Russia on the Ukraine issue later this month.
Following Trump’s election, the idea was raised by Saudi Arabia, once again. At a dinner date between Abdel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Abdullah Bin Zayed, UAE foreign minister, and other guests in March 2017 where “their message was ‘Why don’t we lift the Ukrainian sanctions on Russia in exchange for getting the Russians to push Iran out of Syria” an attendee recalled, according to the report.
Last month, Trump called for Russia to re-join the Group of Seven industrial nations. Russia was dismissed four years ago over the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.