Israel has spoken repeatedly with major powers, such as Russia and the US, to ensure that Iran cannot entrench itself militarily in Syria or in other parts of the Middle East.
Israel will combat any Iranian threat in Syria and beyond, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Monday, just one week after Iran was reported to have transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Shi’ite allies in Iraq in recent months.
Tehran and Baghdad formally denied that report.
Israel has spoken repeatedly with major powers, such as Russia and the US, to ensure that Iran cannot entrench itself militarily in Syria or in other parts of the Middle East. It has also launched military strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
“We are not limiting ourselves only to Syria. We will deal with every Iranian threat, no matter where it comes from,” Liberman said.
Asked about whether Israel has the freedom of action for any such moves, Liberman said, “Israeli freedom of action is absolute… Definitely any threat that comes up will be answered.”
He stressed that Israel was prepared for a military escalation along its northern front. All those who are involved in Syria are very impressed by Israel’s capabilities, Liberman said.
“I want to give you just an example that we all saw – the meeting of two leaders, [US President Donald] Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, in Helsinki. They both talked about the State of Israel and Israel’s interests in Syria,” the defense minister said. “So I can tell you that everyone is very impressed and we are definitely following everything that has been done in Syria.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he was “deeply concerned” by the reported Iranian missile transfer.
“If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231,” he tweeted, referring to a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. The Trump administration abandoned that deal in May, citing, among other factors, Iran’s ballistic missile projects.
Two envoys, US Special Representative for Syrian Affairs James Jeffrey and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn are making visits in the region since Saturday through Tuesday, with stops in Israel, Jordan and Turkey for talks on the issue of Syria and Iran.
On Saturday night, the two envoys met with the head of the political and military bureau of the Defense Ministry, Zohar Palti. He presented them with Liberman’s stance against the entrenchment of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.
He also spoke of the importance of US sanctions against Iran in preventing its support of regional terror.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored the danger of an Iranian military presence in Syria when he met Sunday night with the US delegation.
“The two discussed the situation in Syria and the joint effort to stop Iran’s terror and aggression,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement it issued after the meeting.
Prior to the visit of the two envoys, the US State Department said they would speak with Israeli officials about “maintaining Israel’s security while countering Iran’s destabilizing activity throughout the region.”
“They will also underscore that the United States will respond to any chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Syrian regime,” a State Department spokesman said.
Mendy Shlomo and Reuters contributed to this report.