Assad no longer immune if he harbors Iranian forces, Netanyahu warns
search

Assad no longer immune if he harbors Iranian forces, Netanyahu warns

PM says Israel will destroy Syria's troops, criticizes west Europe for 'living in the past' and not understanding that the Middle East is realigning to counter Tehran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with French Economy Minister and entrepreneurs at the French Economy Ministry in Paris on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with French Economy Minister and entrepreneurs at the French Economy Ministry in Paris on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT)

LONDON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar Assad was “no longer immune” from retaliation, while declaring the Iran nuclear deal is over after Washington ditched the accord.

Noting that Israel had stayed out of Syria’s protracted civil war, in which Tehran backs Assad, Netanyahu said increasing Iranian encroachment required “a new calculus.”

“He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, as we’ve just demonstrated, we will destroy his forces,” the Israeli leader said at an event organized by the Policy Exchange think tank in London.

Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on purported Iranian targets in Syria following what it said was a barrage of rockets fired by Iran from the country toward its forces on the Golan Heights.

Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them. The strikes reportedly hit Iranian military assets and warehouses.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with the Greek Kathimerini newspaper, in Damascus, Syria, in this photo released May 10, 2018. (SANA via AP)

“Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” Netanyahu added.

“The consequences are not merely to the Iranian forces there but to the Assad regime as well,” he said, adding: “I think it’s something that he should consider very seriously.”

Netanyahu is on a three-day European tour — visiting Berlin and Paris earlier this week — marked by strategic differences on Iran, as its leaders attempt to rescue the nuclear deal after US withdrawal in May.

He met Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who reiterated London’s “firm commitment” to the accord, according to Downing Street.

But the Israeli leader said Thursday “the weight of the American economy” was already dooming “this very bad agreement.”

“It’s a done deal — in the other meaning of the word,” he added, noting companies were already pulling out of Iran under threat of damaging US sanctions.

“You have to choose whether to do business with Iran, or forego doing business with the United States… that’s a no-brainer and everybody’s choosing it effectively as we speak.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) greets Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing street in London on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL)

Netanyahu said he had reiterated his dislike for the 2015 deal, which offers sanctions relief in exchange for strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

However, the focus of his discussions in Europe had been on reducing Iran’s presence in Syria, he added.

“I found considerable agreement on that goal.”

At the same time, he criticized his European hosts for an outdated approach to the region.

Netanyahu said Iranian expansion had led to a “realignment” of relations with Arab states in the Middle East who also oppose Tehran — something Britain and western Europe were “evidently not understanding.”

“There is a whole realignment taking place in the Middle East — they’re sort of stuck in the past,” he added, displaying a map of the world with numerous countries highlighted to show Israel’s “expanding diplomatic horizons.”

“I think there’s a west European problem with recognizing that the world is changing,” he said.

read more:
comments