Defense Minister warns Israel will not tolerate Iranian presence in Syria

Liberman: Israel will not allow all of Syria to become an Iranian forward operating base  

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman toured Israel’s border with Syria on Wednesday, during which he reiterated Israel’s position that it would not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria.

“We will simply not enable a Shiite and Iranian presence in Syria, and will not allow all of Syria to become a forward operating base against the state of Israel. Whoever doesn’t understand that — should understand that,” Liberman stated while touring IDF bases in the Golan Heights with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and meeting with commanders and soldiers.

He was apparently responding to Russia’s statement that it viewed Iran’s presence in Syria as “legitimate.”

“We state the fact of our and the Iranian legitimate presence [in Syria] at the invitation of the legitimate government,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

Liberman also lauded the IDF’s preparedness, saying that “when you meet the IDF soldiers you known you have someone to count on.”

“The IDF is well prepared and ready for any scenario, we are maintaining our total freedom of operation, and the only consideration guiding us is the security of the State of Israel,” he said.

These statements came after the US, Russia and Jordan negotiated the deal designed to reach a new cease-fire agreement in southern Syria that will create a “de-escalation zone” adjacent to Israel’s border, where Iran and Hezbollah, its terror proxy, will not be allowed to establish themselves.

Israel is apprehensive of the deal because Iran is allowed to establish itself 7 km (4.5 miles) from it northern border, a distance Jerusalem insists is not satisfactory for its security needs.

Israel has long warned about the involvement of it archenemy Iran, and its terror proxy Hezbollah, in Syria.

It has expressed concerns of a “Shiite corridor” with land links from Iran to Lebanon, providing free movement for terrorists and weapons across the region.

Speaking to a special session of the Knesset on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Iran knows Israel will ”not accept” its permanent presence in Syria, adding ”I have clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs.”