A flurry of diplomatic activity is taking place in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas.
While the moves are occurring on separate and superficially unrelated fronts, taken together they produce an emergent picture of two camps, one of which works as a united force on essential interests, but the other does not.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week traveled to Sochi to discuss the issue of Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin over. Jerusalem is concerned with Iranian advances in the country, feeling that the deescalation agreement for southwest Syria reached by Washington and Moscow is inadequate. This is simply because Tehran and its proxy militia allies are trying to establish themselves along the border with the Israeli- controlled part of the Golan Heights.
It is noteworthy that this visit followed an apparent failure by a senior Israeli security delegation to Washington DC to ensure a US commitment in this regard. As the officials were talking, the fighting fronts were on the move.
Sunday saw the opening of an offensive to take the town of Tal Afar, 60 kilometers west of Mosul, from the now crumbling Islamic State. Among the forces taking part in the offensive are the Hashd al-Sha’abi/Popular Mobilization Units.
The PMU is the alliance of Shia militias mobilized to fight ISIS in the summer of 2014. Most prominent among them are Iranian-supported groups such as the Badr Organization, Ktaeb Hezbollah and the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
An additional notable process now under way is the attempt to induce the Iraqi Kurds to abandon their proposed independence referendum, scheduled to take place on September 25. Iran is fiercely opposed to any Kurdish move toward independence.