US Secretary of State: Withdrawal from Syria ‘in No Way Changes’ Work with Israel

PM Netanyahu and US Secy. of State Mike Pompeo. Photo courtesy of Avi Ohayon (Israeli GPO)

While the United States is poised to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, that does not signal a shift in the Americans’ support for the defense of Israel or the US determination to oppose Iranian aggression in the Middle East. That was the message from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

“The decision the President made on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel,” said Pompeo in comments published by the State Department. “The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue, and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made.”

Pompeo, meeting with Netanyahu in Brazil around the inauguration of the new president in that country, also went out of his way to commend Israel’s military operation to destroy the Hezbollah terror tunnels that were discovered stretching from Lebanon to Israel. Both Hezbollah and Syria are proxies of Iran and are part of Iran’s plans to attack Israel indirectly.

“You all have done good work in Operation Northern Shield. We understand the threat that that violation of Israeli sovereignty presents to the region and to the country—the threat from Iranian Hezbollah—and we’ll work closely together to make sure that we get this right,” said Pompeo.

Netanyahu also emphasized the consistency of American support for Israel’s defense in the face of the decision to withdraw from Syria.

“We’re going to discuss the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decisions on Syria, on how to intensify even further our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East. That’s a common aim,” said Netanyahu in comments with Pompeo that were published by the Israeli premier’s office.

He continued, “I’m also very appreciative of the strong support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria just in the last few days.”

The comments by the two allies come as The New York Times has reported that US President Donald Trump is now planning to withdraw US troops from Syria more slowly. The process, according to the report, will now span roughly four months, rather than 30 days.

The Syrian civil war has turned that country into a hotbed of foreign military activity due to the presence of a variety of terrorists—as well as other nations eager to take advantage of the chaos to strengthen their position in the Middle East. Iran, Russia, the US, Israel, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Turkey and others have all been militarily involved in Syria in recent years.

The US withdrawal has raised concerns about further Iranian entrenchment in the country, but Israel has insisted it won’t change their uncompromising approach to Iranian force buildup in Syria.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Lebanon, the United Nations investigation into the terror tunnels by Iranian proxy Hezbollah continues. A press release last week from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the UN peacekeepers confirmed that at least one tunnel crosses the UN ceasefire “Blue Line” from Lebanon into Israel. That explicitly violates the UN resolution that ended the last Israel-Lebanon war in 2006.

This was determined when UNFIL observed that liquid cement injected by the IDF into a tunnel the UN confirmed was on Israel’s side was then seen pouring out of a tunnel housed in a cement factory in Lebanon.

“Based on this observation, UNIFIL can confirm that the old concrete factory in Kfar Kela has an opening to the tunnel, which is crossing the Blue Line,” said the press release posted to the UNFIL website.

“UNIFIL is working in close coordination with the [Lebanon Armed Forces] in efforts to enable appropriate steps to address the violation of resolution 1701.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, January 1, 2019)

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