Developing intelligence in Israel reveals that, in light of a secret agreement between Trump and Putin, Russia has issued an unprecedented order that is shutting down Iran and its proxy military forces in Syria.
Eighteen months ago, Moscow made a move into the vacuum of superpower influence left by the policies of former US President Barack Obama. All at once, it seemed, it had an airbase, seaport, special ops soldiers and military consultants in Syria.
The move was also facilitated by Russia's alliance with Iran, providing nuclear technology, missiles and military equipment, arming it far beyond the Islamic Republic's need to defend itself.
On the other hand, the mullahs of Tehran became dependent on Russia's technological expertise and its supplies for essential components to operate Iran's nuclear program, jets and missiles.
Today that dependence has given Russia the clout to force Tehran and its proxies, including Assad's forces, to shut down its military operations in Syria.
Behind the scenes, Iran is sure to be grinding its teeth but, like a junky dependent on its dealer, it is acting according to the addiction that Putin has carefully cultivated.
According to the Israeli intelligence news service, DEBKAfile, a Russian Commander in Syria, Lt. General Alexander Zhuravlev, has issued an order to the high commands of Iran, its Shiite force and its proxy Hezbollah. He gave the same order to the troops under the command of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
That order prohibits all of these forces to freeze their positions. As of noon one week ago today, on Thursday 26 January, the directive forbids any movement by these groups out of their current locations in Syria. That means, at least in part, they were commanded to not advance their military efforts on any front. Even Syria's air force was effectively grounded.
Notably, one week later there has been complete compliance with Moscow's command.
Why did Russia issue the order?
The ban came from Moscow to prevent military reprisals against the Putin-Trump deal for Syria. There was no mention of penalties for disobedience, but the tone was peremptory.
The three army commanders [of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] did not need reminding that the Russians are capable of using their electronic warfare systems to disrupt unauthorized military movements, jam their communications, and withhold fuel, ammo and spare parts to create havoc in their armies.
The decision was taken shortly after the Kremlin was notified that US President Donald Trump had agreed to join forces with President Vladimir Putin in Syria.
Since then, the Trump administration has kept all dealings with Moscow over Syria under a cloak of secrecy, including the outcome of President Trump’s first phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
All other concerned parties, such as Israel, have been left groping in the dark about what happens next.
The Russian standstill order in Syria came shortly before the US presidential decree that barred Iranians from entering the United States (along with the nationals of six other terror-prone Muslim countries).
Iran can no longer doubt that the two powers, America and Russia, have ganged up to push the Islamic Republic out of their way. Trepidation in Tehran was articulated on Monday, 30 January, at a convention staged in the Iranian capital to celebrate 515 years of Iranian-Russian relations, an anniversary that would not normally be marked by a special event.
In his opening remarks, Foreign Minster Mohammed Zarif Javad said: that Iran and Russia “need to have far more extensive relations,” and “few countries in the world have relations as deep and historical as Iran and Russia.”
This sounded like an appeal to Moscow for protection against the new US president. It most likely fell on deaf ears. Putin is fully engaged in promoting his new relations with Donald Trump.