Lindsey Graham Calls on Israel: Don't Strike Syria Deal With Putin at U.S. Expense

'I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria,' Senator Graham tweets before Netanyahu meets Putin in Moscow

Senator Lindsey Graham arrives for a closed-door briefings on Syria for the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 17, 2018.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sent an unusual warning to Israel on Thursday about any attempts to reach an agreement with Russia over the situation in Syria, saying it could potentially affect U.S. national security interests. Graham took to his official Twitter account to send the message that trusting Russia would be a mistake for Israel.

"To our friends in Israel – be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests," Graham wrote, adding "I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence."

Graham's tweet came ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Vladimir Putin in Russia to discuss the situation in Syria amid reports about an Israeli proposal in which Russia would push Iran out of Syria, and in return the United States would lift sanctions on Russia and accept its invasion of eastern Ukraine. The New Yorker reported this week that such a proposal was made by Israeli officials in early 2017, during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations.

Russia working to remove Iran from Syria border, Israeli sources say

Graham is considered a hawkish voice in Syria in the Senate, and also a strong supporter of the Israeli government, which makes his public warning to Israel unusual. In a subsequent tweet, he added that an American withdrawal from Syria would be a "disaster" for American interests and allies, including the Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

Putin shakes hands with Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018.
AFP

Graham's statement could point to unease in Washington around the increase coordination between Israel and Russia in the Syrian arena, and the possibility that such coordination is diminishing the United States' role. Prime Minister Netanyahu has pointed out numerous times in recent months that Israel is closely coordinating its positions regarding Syria with the Trump administration, at the same time that Israel is trying to reach an understanding with Russia.