Netanyahu Talking Iran, Israeli ‘Freedom of Action’ in Syria with World Leaders

Israel and Russia are taking Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of the office of the President of Russia.

Just days after a discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be leaving on Monday for Europe to meet with the leaders of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. On the docket for all these conversations: Iran, including Iranian forces in Syria.

“While I will discuss with [the European leaders] developments in the region, the emphasis will be on Iran, first of all on continuing to block Iran’s nuclear program,” said Netanyahu on Sunday in comments released by his office. Secondarily, the Israeli leader said he would discuss “the blocking of Iran’s plans for expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria.”

To that end, Israel has reportedly struck multiple Iranian targets in Syria, in addition to a variety of reported strikes to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah terrorists. Netanyahu highlighted that Israel will continue to operate militarily in Syria. Said the Israeli Prime Minister, “I will also insist on a basic principle: Israel retains—and will continue to retain—freedom of action against the establishment of an Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria.”

Netanyahu said that in his discussions on the Iranian nuclear program with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “of course, I will reiterate an unchanging truth: Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.”

The talks come as the Europeans have tried to hold together the Iran nuclear deal even after the Americans backed out of the accord last month. The Iranians have reportedly threatened to walk away too if their demands of Europe in the context of the deal are not met.

While the Iranian nuclear situation remains a top priority for Israel, the efforts by Iran to establish forward bases in Syria is a more immediate threat. In light of that, last week Netanyahu spoke with Putin and “discussed regional developments and the Iranian presence in Syria,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

Russia is a key player in Syria as the most powerful ally to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, maintaining a military presence in the country helping to prop up the regime in the Syrian civil war. The Iranians are also a key Assad ally and have also been building up their military presence in Syria.

Interestingly, in the Russian press release on Netanyahu-Putin conversation, Iran was not explicitly mentioned. The press release posted to the President of Russia’s website just said the telephone call was a “follow-up to the talks held on May 9 in Moscow,” and that “various aspects of the Syrian settlement process, as well as current bilateral issues were discussed.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, June 3, 2018)

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