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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

More than three months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin's national security adviser Nikolai Patrushev gave his Israeli counterpart a document. It contained an unofficial proposal for a deal between the U.S. and Russia on Syria and Iran intended to start a wider dialogue between Washington and Moscow to improve relations, two Israeli officials with direct knowledge tell me.

Why it matters: The Russian proposal would have tied a U.S. withdrawal from Syria to an Iranian exit from the country, and provided the U.S. and Israel more influence over a future political settlement in Syria. However, it also called for a freeze on U.S. sanctions on Iran — something Netanyahu found unacceptable. Ultimately, the U.S. gave up much of its leverage in Syria with President Trump's surprise announcement Wednesday of a unilateral withdrawal.

Background: Last month, I reported that Netanyahu told a closed door hearing at the Knesset that Russia proposed a deal for pushing Iranian forces out of Syria in return for relief from some U.S. sanctions against Iran. We now know that Netanyahu's comments referred to a document called the "Patrushev Paper."

  • The Patrushev Paper was given to Israel in a meeting that took place in Moscow on Sept. 13 — four days before the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria that kicked off a deep crisis between Israel and Russia.
  • The two Israeli officials told me Russia's proposal was that Israel would act as a facilitator between the U.S. and Russia and encourage the White House to start a dialogue with the Kremlin on Syria and Iran as an opening for a wider bilateral discussion.
  • "They asked us to open the gates for them in Washington," one Israeli official told me.

Details: The Israeli officials who saw the "Patrushev Paper" said it included these main points ...

  • Freezing the U.S. plan for reimposing economic sanctions on Iran in November as part of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • A Russian commitment to push Iranian and pro-Iranian forces out of Syria.
  • A withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, mainly from the Al-Tanf base.
  • The opening of a dialogue between the U.S. and Russia on the issue of Iran.
  • Using the U.S.-Russian dialogue on Syria and Iran to expand their dialogue on other bilateral relations.

What happened: The Israeli officials told me Netanyahu rejected the proposals in the Patrushev Paper because he thought the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran could be used as leverage on the Iranians over Syria — not the other way around.

  • "For Netanyahu, stopping the Iranian nuclear program was above everything else, and this is why he refused to show any flexibility on the issue of U.S. sanctions," one Israeli official told me.
  • A second Israeli official told me that, if Israel didn't reject the Russian proposal, it might have been able to ensure that any U.S. decision to pull out of Syria would be part of a deal on the Iranian presence in the country — not merely a unilateral move.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
40 mins ago - Sports

MLB falls out favor with Republicans

Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

MLB is the latest sports league to fall out of favor with Republicans following its decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

By the numbers: In mid-March, MLB's net favorability rating among Republicans was 47%, the highest of the four major U.S. sports leagues. Since then, it has plummeted to 12%, dropping the league below the NFL and NHL, according to new data from Morning Consult.

55 mins ago - World

Blinken makes unannounced trip to Afghanistan to sell troop withdrawal

Photo: CARLOS BARRIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet with the nation's president, Ashraf Ghani, and Abdullah Abdullah, who is representing the Taliban in negotiations, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Blinken sought to reassure the pair that the U.S. will maintain support for the country, despite President Biden's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan starting May 1 and concluding in full by Sept. 11.

Women rise to the top at major media companies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several women have been tapped to lead some of the country's largest newsrooms over the past year — a promising sign of progress for an industry that's typically been slow to accept change and embrace diversity.

Driving the news: CBS News executive Kimberly Godwin was named president of ABC News on Wednesday. Godwin will be the first Black woman to lead a major broadcast news division when she takes the helm in May.