Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Tuesday that Iran would not gain a foothold in Syria by which to attack Israel. Netanyahu spoke via video to American Jewish leaders just hours after Russia clarified the it had no intention of pushing Tehran’s military forces out of the country, The Jerusalem Post reports.
“Iran is scheming to entrench itself militarily in Syria. They want to create a permanent air, land and sea military presence, with the declared intent of using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel. We are not going to agree to that. I have said very clearly that Israel will work to stop this,” Netanyahu told the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly which is meeting in Los Angeles.
“We must all work together to stop Iran’s aggression and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. If we stand together we will achieve it. But if we have to we’ll stand alone. Iran will not get nuclear weapons. It will not turn Syria into a military base against Israel,” the premier asserted. Further stressing Israel’s dismay over the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu said:
“We must ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. That is the bottom line and the most important. The Iran nuclear deal does not achieve that. On the contrary, after about a decade, it will leave Iran able to produce hundreds of nuclear weapons in a very short time, because the deal rescinds all the limitations on Iran’s enrichment capacity. They can have hundreds of thousands of centrifuges and they plan to.”
Both Israel and the United States believe that the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity, is dangerous because it leaves Tehran with the ability to create nuclear weapons. Outside of the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, Germany and France signed the document, but none of those five countries have expressed interest in changing the document.
Netanyahu has said that safeguards against Iran can be put in place, without changing the text. U.S. President Donald Trump has created an opportunity for the five world powers to address the flaws in the document, the prime minister said.
“You have to correct it, either by fixing it or nixing it. Iran is dangerous because of its fanatic ideology of global conquest, its growing power, its unflagging commitment to destroy Israel [and] its unvarnished aggression. Iran has already spread conflict around the Middle East, in Yemen, in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon. We are far from alone in recognizing the Iranian threat to the Middle East. The leading Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, see things exactly as we do. They are right,” Netanyahu continued, adding that he has previously encouraged world leaders to take action to improve the document.
Keeping the same tone as Netanyahu, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded Wednesday to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Iran’s presence in Syria was legitimate, warning that the Jewish State maintains freedom of action in Syria and will not allow Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.
“We maintain absolute freedom of action and the only considerations that guide us are the security considerations of Israel. With regards to Iran, we will simply not allow for Shi’ite consolidation and Iranian entrenchment in Syria nor will we allow Syria to become a forward operating base against the State of Israel. Anyone who has yet to understand that is advised to do so,” he said at the end of a two-day tour in northern Israel.
Liberman was responding to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said that Iranian presence in Syria was “legitimate.” Lavrov was quoted by RIA as saying that Russia never promised the United States that Iran and Iranian-backed forces would withdraw from Syria.
As an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow finds itself as part of an alliance between Damascus and Tehran, the patron of Hezbollah. Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country.