Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday mocked Iran’s claim it had achieved the vast majority of its objectives in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war.
“Yesterday we heard a senior official in Iran’s terrorist regime say, ‘Iran has attained 90 percent of its goals in Syria,'” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “That’s not true. It’s true they’re trying, and it’s true we’re preventing it.”
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday, “We have accomplished more than 90 percent of our objectives. Thus, the Israeli punitive strikes [on Syria] have had no strategic impact and the resistance has pressed ahead with its activities.”
Shamkhani did not define what those objectives were.
Netanyahu dismissed the claim as one of the Tehran regime’s “great many lies.”
He said: “A month ago an Iranian official said they’re just ‘advising’ in Syria. The world is hearing a great many lies from Iran. I have a clear message to the Iranian regime, which wants to destroy Israel: Israel will continue to act for as long as necessary to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.”
Netanyahu also said he was headed to Moscow on Wednesday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, where “of course Iran will be at the top of our agenda, we’ve agreed on that. I’ll discuss with him developments in the region and Iran’s aggression.”
The two leaders “will also discuss strengthening the defense coordination mechanism between the IDF and the Russian army to ensure stability and prevent unnecessary friction in the region,” Netanyahu said.
Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on targets linked to Iran in Syria, where along with its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, and Russia, the Islamic Republic is fighting to shore up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Israeli officials have said Iran is working to establish a military presence in Syria that was to be used to threaten the Jewish state, and using the country to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Shamkhani accused Israel of having “crossed the red line” by striking Iranian assets in Syria and bragged about the “heavy blow” his country dealt in response to an Israeli strike on an airbase there linked to Iran.
He appeared to be referring to an Iranian missile salvo fired at the Golan Heights last May following Israeli airstrikes on the T-4 air field. The Israeli military said that four of the 32 rockets fired were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, while the rest landed short of the Israeli border, inside Syrian territory.
Shamkhani hinted that Iran and its allies would respond more forcefully to Israeli strikes in future.
“We have made arrangements to protect our red line in the area of human casualties caused by any act of aggression and invasion,” he said. “We will soon witness a major upheaval in upgrading the deterrent power of resistance in Syria.”
He said he did not believe Netanyahu was seeking a military confrontation with Iranian forces in Syria, in light of upcoming Knesset elections.
“If Netanyahu gets entangled in several fronts simultaneously, he will definitely end his shaky political life in the run-up to the elections. I don’t think that he [Netanyahu] would be so silly,” Shamkhani said.
Meanwhile in an interview published Friday with the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he did not believe a war between the countries was likely but accused Israel of “adventurism” and said Iran was prepared for the possibility.
Echoing Shamkhani, Zarif also defended Iran’s presence in Syria and stressed that it was there at Assad’s invitation.
Earlier last week, Zarif accused Israel of “looking for war” and claimed it was violating international law by carrying out bombing raids in Syria.