Syria

Pompeo to meet Netanyahu in Brussels

Pompeo and Netanyahu in Israel in April. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels on Monday. The meeting, which was announced by the Israeli side only this morning, will deal with Iranian activity in Syria and Lebanon, according to Israeli officials.

Why it matters: The timing and the venue of this meeting are a bit out of the ordinary. Israeli officials told me the venue was chosen because it was the "in the middle of the way" between Washington and Jerusalem, adding the meeting was originally planned to take place on Wednesday in Milan but the time and place have changed because of President George H.W. Bush's funeral. The State Department did not announce the meeting with Netanyahu in advance and did not release Pompeo's daily schedule on its website — and its statement on Pompeo's trip to Brussels released this morning doesn't mention the meeting with Netanyahu.

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.

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