Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has made a new warning regarding Iran’s influence claiming the country is attempting to use the ports of regional ally Syria to dock submarines in Mediterranean waters. Netanyahu told the BBC on Sunday that Iran is seeking to use its close ties with the Syrian regime to threaten Israel with military vessels and aircraft close to its border.
“As [the Islamic State group] collapses, as ISIS moves out, Iran moves in, but they want to bring their air force there, right next to Israel. They want to bring Shia and Iranian divisions right next to Israel, they want to bring submarines and military vessels into the Mediterranean, right next to Israel. So we will not let that happen, we will resist it,” he said on The Andrew Marr Show.
Iran is known to have three “Kilo class” Russian submarines and a number of smaller vessels including midget subs. He said that the war in Syria had allowed Iran to cement its influence in the region, with Tehran sending thousands of Shia militia fighters and Revolutionary Guards troops to fight in Syria and Iraq.
“[Iran] is seeking to colonise Syria for that purpose – that is, to ‘Lebanonise’ Syria. What they did in Lebanon that Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri resigned over is basically took over the country… The same thing is being done in Syria.”
These new strategic interests has given Iran unprecedented access to states neighbouring Israel and presents a new military threat to Tel Aviv, he claimed.
“You know, the more we’re prepared to stop it, the less likely we’ll have to resort to much greater things. There is a principle I very much adhere to, which is to nip bad things in the bud,” he warned.
Israel has been warning about Iran entrenching itself in Syria for the past year. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have warned several times that Israel could be forced into military action under such circumstances, particularly with regard to the deployment of pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in southern Syria near the border with Israel in the Golan Heights. Among other things, there has been talk of establishing an Iranian air force base in Syria and of Iranian plans to build weapons factories for Hezbollah in Syria and in Lebanon. In March, Netanyahu, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Iran sought was seeking to lease naval facilities along Syria’s Mediterranean coast, as Russia had done at the port of Tartus.