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US Security Officials in Israel Amidst Growing Iranian Presence in Syria

Moscow and Washington Spar on Regional Issues

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15 Nov 2017 (All day)
US Security Officials in Israel Amidst Growing Iranian Presence in Syria
Senior US security officials were in Israel this week for talks aimed at addressing the ongoing crisis in neighboring Syria, including the discussion between Washington and Moscow on the growing Iranian presence there which Israel considers an unacceptable threat. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday that Israel would not abide by any arrangement that did not take its security needs into account. A recently announced joint US-Russian position calls for “the reduction and ultimate elimination” of foreign fighters from areas of Syria near the Israeli border, presumably including Iranian troops and proxy militias. But Israeli officials are worried because the statement did not include details of how or when these steps would be taken.

“The goal – both inside this zone and outside it – is to ensure departure of non-Syrian military units,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday. “No one mentioned Iran or pro-Iranian forces. If we talk about pro-Iranian forces, somebody might be tempted to call the entire Syrian Army pro-Iranian, and then what – it should surrender? In my opinion, it is a wishful thinking.”

“We’ve just stated the fact that there is Russian and Iranian legitimate presence on the invitation of the legitimate government [on the Syrian territory] and we have also stated the fact of the illegitimate presence of the coalition created by the United States, which is carrying out military actions, including unilateral ones,” Lavrov said. “To seek withdrawal from the line of contact of non-Syrian groups, which are currently present in this very complicated Syrian region – yes, this was agreed upon. But this is a two-way street and if one looks at who is the most dangerous – they are those who are under the care of the United States. They are various foreign terrorists and fighters who join armed opposition groups supported by the US.”

In remarks via Skype delivered to the annual Jewish Federation’s General Assembly in Los Angeles this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Iran is scheming to entrench itself in Syria. They want to create a permanent air, land and sea military presence. We are not going to agree to that. I have said very clearly that Israel will work to stop this, and we must all work together to stop Iran’s aggression and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. If we stand together we will achieve it. But, if we have to, we will stand alone. Iran will not get nuclear weapons, it will not turn Syria into a military base against Israel.”

Here is the full video of Netanyahu's address to the conference

In related news, a US-sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council meant to address lingering questions about the Assad regime’s chemical weapons arsenal emerging as a new bone of contention between the US and Russia.
“Russia has refused to engage on our draft resolution — which the vast majority of council members agree is the most viable text — in spite of our multiple attempts to consider Russian concerns”, a spokesman for the US mission to the UN said on Monday.

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