Nov 20, 2018

Scoop: Russian proposal linked Iran sanctions relief with Syria withdrawal

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a closed hearing on Monday that Russia recently proposed to Israel and the U.S. that Iran be granted relief from some U.S. sanctions in return for the removal of Iranian forces and proxies from Syria.

Why it matters: Iranian retrenchment in Syria is a huge concern for Israel, but the Russian position until now has been, at least publicly, that Iran's presence is legitimate because it came at the Assad regime's invitation. This is the first we're hearing that the Russians have floated an idea for Iran's withdrawal, and that they're linking it to U.S. sanctions.

Netanyahu's statements came during a hearing of the foreign affairs and security committee of the Knesset.

  • Lawmakers who attended the hearing said Netanyahu did not say whether the Russian proposal was made during his short conversation with Vladimir Putin in Paris last Sunday, but that it definitely seemed that way from the prime minister's comments.
  • They said Netanyahu spoke favorably about his meeting with Putin, and said the Russians cannot push the Iranians out of Syria on their own, but need help from other world powers.

According to the members of Knesset who attended the hearing, Netanyahu said Russia and the U.S. were discussing ways to limit Iranian influence in Syria — including the Russian proposal on sanctions relief.

  • Netanyahu said that on November 8th, U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey met in Vienna with Russian officials to discuss the issue. On November 5th, three days before the Vienna meeting, Netanyahu met Jeffrey in Jerusalem.
  • During the hearing, Netanyahu was asked if Israel had expressed a position on the Russian proposal. He said it was at the moment only an idea, and that Israel hasn't formulated a policy on it.

The Russian embassy in Tel-Aviv declined to comment on this story. A senior State Department official didn't deny it, and told me: "We remain engaged with the UN ‎and other parties, including Russia, to encourage all possible efforts to advance the political track as called for in UNSCR 2254. We do not however discuss the substance of these diplomatic discussions".

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 660,706 — Total deaths: 30,652 — Total recoveries: 139,304.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 121,478 — Total deaths: 2,026 — Total recoveries: 1,072.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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Coronavirus updates: Deaths surge in Italy and Spain

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has since Friday killed 889 more people in Italy and 832 others in Spain, which announced all non-essential workplaces would close for two weeks.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Saturday in the U.S., which leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 121,000, per John Hopkins. The number of those recovered from the virus in the United States passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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U.S. coronavirus deaths top 2,000

Nurses in masks, goggles, gloves, and protective gowns at Penn State Health St. Joseph conduct drive-thru coronavirus testing in Bern Township, Pennsylvania on March 27. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

More than 2,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus in the U.S. as of Saturday, per data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Why it matters: Recorded deaths in the U.S. surpassed 1,000 two days ago. The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy.

Go deeper: Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut