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From (L-R): Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

During a trilateral summit in Jerusalem last month, the U.S. and Israel told Russia that any deal on the future of Syria must include an Iranian military withdrawal not just from that country but also from Lebanon and Iraq, U.S. officials who were involved in the discussions tell me.

Why it matters: Israel and the Trump administration are concerned that a future deal in Syria could export the Iranian problem to Iraq and Lebanon.

A possible deal on Syria was the focus of the talks held 3 weeks ago in Jerusalem. National security adviser John Bolton was joined by Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, his counterparts from Israel and Russia, respectively.

  • The Russians were seeking U.S. and Israeli agreement over the stabilization of the Bashar al-Assad regime. They also hope the U.S. will encourage Western countries to help fund the reconstruction of Syria.
  • Russia is allied with Iran in Syria and has been unable or unwilling (or both) to compel Iranian forces to leave the country. The Russians claim to have pushed Iran-backed forces 60 miles from Israel's border, but Israeli officials say the groups still operate in the area.

U.S. officials tell me Bolton and Ben-Shabbat told Patrushev that the pullout of Iranian forces from Syria was a prerequisite for any deal, but insufficient.

  • They said any deal must address the Iranian military presence in Lebanon — mainly precision missile factories built to arm Hezbollah.
  • The U.S. and Israel told Russia such a deal should also address Iran's presence in Iraq — mainly when it comes to arming Shiite militias with long-range rockets capable of reaching Israel.

What to watch: Bolton and Ben-Shabbat told Patrushev that as a first stage, the Russians could focus on pressing the Iranians to take all of their heavy weaponry — mainly missiles and rockets — out of Syria.

“Bolton made it clear to Patrushev that, in any case, Russia is the one that needs to take the first step regarding the Iranian presence in Syria — and only then the U.S. could give them things they want."
— U.S. officials

Where things stand: The Russians gave the Iranians public backing during and after the summit.

  • Last week, Vladimir Putin sent his Syria envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev, to Tehran to reassure the Iranians and brief Iranian national security adviser Ali Shamkhani on the results of the summit.
  • However, Israeli and U.S. officials say the Iranians are very concerned that Israel, the U.S. and Russia could strike a deal on Syria at their expense.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

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