Israel Says US Troop Removal from Syria Won’t Change Policy against Iran

PM Netanyahu & the Security Cabinet in the north. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (Israeli GPO).

The removal of 2,000 United States soldiers from Syria may withdraw a key Israeli ally from the territory of their northern neighbor, but it won’t impact the Jewish State’s determination to prevent Iran from using Syria as a base to attack Israel. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Israel might even increase its anti-Iran efforts.

“The decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy: We will continue to act against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office.

However, he indicated that while the Americans and Israel may take different practical approaches to Syria—the US withdrawing and Israel escalating—the two nations will still work together. “I would like to reassure those who are concerned. Our cooperation with the US will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: Operations, intelligence and many other security spheres,” said Netanyahu.

The comments come as Israel not only has conducted numerous strikes against pro-Iranian targets in Syria, but also as they continue their high-profile campaign to destroy terror tunnels between the Lebanon and Israeli border built by the Iranian proxy Hezbollah.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that the tunnel destruction effort is “mostly behind us” in a statement released by his office. Netanyahu and the Israeli Security Cabinet toured the area that same day.

“There has been exceptional work here to deny Hezbollah the tunnels weapon. It has invested greatly in this and we have destroyed it,” said the Israeli Premier.

That’s not the only work drawing to a close in the area. The United States recently announced plans to start removing troops from Syria, in what US President Donald Trump called “the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area” on Twitter. Trump noted on Twitter in a separate post that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

While ISIS is not completely defeated, Trump on Twitter noted that Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey can address what is left. However, the Israelis’ main concern in Syria has been the buildup of Iranian forces and the threat of transferring advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah terrorists.

Trump said in a Twitter post that the US has been doing the work of Russia, Iran and Syria in fighting ISIS.

The decision to withdraw from Syria has drawn criticism—including from Trump’s own political party in the US—but Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett took a different view of the American move.

Per an English translation of Bennett’s Twitter post, the Israeli parliamentarian said, “The State of Israel has always defended itself on its own, and will do so now. The United States is Israel’s important ally and we respect the president’s decision to remove the American military forces from Syria. We have never asked for and will not ask its soldiers to defend Israeli citizens. The alliance with the US will continue to strengthen our national strength.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, December 25, 2018)

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