The first gettogether of the US, Russian and Israel national security advisers on Tuesday, June 25 in Jerusalem proved a useful forum for the powers to air pressing Mid East concerns even without a breakthrough. John Bolton, Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was upstaged by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, also shone interesting light on their boss’s respective policies.
- President Donald Trump’s anti-Iran offensive seems to have narrowed down to a single focus, i.e., Iran will never be allowed to acquire a nuclear bomb. The 12-point ultimatum for Iran elaborated not long ago by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faded away. Since Trump’s next steps are unknown, there was not much point in the three security advisers coming to conclusions or even indulging in far-reaching brainstorming.
- There was also little point in trying to double-guess Iran’s next moves. Tehran abruptly killed any form of diplomacy with Washington after the imposition of US sanctions on Monday, June 24 against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Even the quiet, discreet dialogue taking place in Baghdad, with Swiss and Iraqi mediation, that was revealed exclusively by DEBKAfile, has been shut down.
- All three officials concurred in urging the removal of all foreign troops from Syria as a general proposition, although they were divided – the US and Israel versus Russia – on the Iranian military presence there and other details.
- The US national security adviser John Bolton limped into the meeting after President Trump cut him down in an NBC interview: “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk,” he said. “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time.” Not long ago, Bolton was Trump’s chief point man with the Kremlin, but this role appears to have faded in recent months. Bolton’s troubles at home helped reduce parts of the tripartite event to a conversation between the Russian and Israeli advisers.
- Therefore, the plan was ditched for Bolton and Patrushev, with Netanyahu’s assistance, to produce a joint working script on key Middle East issues for the Trump-Putin sitdown at the Osaka G20 summit later this month.
- That the top security officials of the two world powers sat down at the same table in Jerusalem to discuss vital regional issues in partnership with Israel must be chalked up to Netanyahu as an extraordinary feat of diplomacy and an unprecedented boost for Israel’s international prestige.
- A little noticed feature of the event was another groundbreaker. It was Moscow’s consent to the Israeli prime minister chairing this high-powered meeting at an East Jerusalem venue, the Orient Hotel. By that gesture, along with other pro-Israeli steps, Putin injected some Russian input into Trump’s recognition of both parts of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Putin was not amiss to the security conference in Jerusalem outshining the US-sponsored economic event on the future of the Palestinians which took place on the same day in Manama, Bahrain.
- In a speech opening the meeting, Netanyahu announced that President Putin would be visiting Israel later this year. This news was completely ignored by the local media. It was taken rightly as another vote of support for Netanyahu’s run for re-election in September, just as the Kremlin backed him in the April vote.