One major result of the Helsinki summit has been overlooked in the furore over Russian election meddling—Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin essentially agreed to an endgame to the Syrian civil war. The basic outlines of the deal are now clear, experts say.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power, there will be a permanent ceasefire between Syria and Israel (after seventy years in a state of war), Damascus will offer guarantees regarding the Jewish state’s security—first and foremost by moving Assad’s Iranian military allies away from Israel’s borders.
“Trump will settle for living with Assad,” says Robert Ford, former US Ambassador to Syria. With mid-term elections approaching, Trump has been “pushing his advisers to make plans to get US forces out of Syria,” says Ford. “This is a time of retrenchment in US foreign policy. Voters are more concerned about domestic issues like immigration, healthcare, cost of living. Trump reflects that preoccupation with domestic issues.”
With the final defeat of ISIS at hand, Trump has been looking for an exit strategy in Syria. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have provided one for him. And the final deal is likely to be one largely brokered by intensive diplomacy by Israel.