Israel’s U.N. ambassador is accusing Iran of attempting to turn Syria into “the largest military base in the world” to destabilize the region, threaten Israel and “terrorize the entire free world,” The Jerusalem Post reports. Danny Danon told the Security Council Thursday that he was ready to expose “classified information” for the first time, “because it is vital for the world to understand that if we turn a blind eye in Syria, the Iranian threat will only grow.
He said the fighters include 60,000 Syrians, 9,000 members of Hezbollah, 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard members and “10,000 members of violent Shia militias recruited from across the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” The figures could not be independently confirmed, but Danon said the Iranians “speak about 100,000 troops under their control in Syria.”
In addition, he said, Iran is investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Syria including on land and factories. Danon noted that the Israeli security establishment believes Iran is spending an estimated $35 billion on training and equipment for fighters in Syria, money that was part of a windfall Tehran received following the nuclear agreement that was finalized more than two years ago.
“Since the signing of the [nuclear deal] in 2015, Iran has only increased its military spending. In 2014, 17% of Iran’s government spending went to its military expenditure. This past year, in 2017, this number ballooned to 22%. That’s $23b. spent on missiles, arms and other weapons of war,” the ambassador said.
“Why does Iran keep recruiting these extremists to be killed on the battlefields of Syria? Why is Iran building bases to house these fighters for the long run? The answer is clear. To further destabilize Syria and our region. To further threaten Israel, and to further terrorize the entire free world,” Danon continued.
He stressed that the international community must not “allow Iran to continue funding worldwide terror, pursue its dangerous internal arms buildup, and grow its military presence abroad.”
Following Danon’s remarks inside the UN Security Council meeting, the veteran diplomat took questions from reporters, where he warned that the Islamic Republic plans to maintain a presence in Syria “for the long run.”
“Iran wants to destabilize Syria in order to maintain a base inside the country, with the aim of terrorizing Israel and its neighbors across the region. The Security Council “cannot sit idly by” as Iran continues to establish a military front on Israel’s northern border,” Danon insisted, urging the international body to “act immediately.”
Danon was also asked about the status of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which was the item scheduled for discussion at the 176th United Nations Security Council meeting held on Thursday.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu… is ready to sit and negotiate with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas. Abbas, on the other hand, is not willing to negotiate… not in Ramallah, not in Jerusalem, not in New York,” Danon said.