“They know that the Iranian regime is in its final days and will soon collapse,” Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Elaph, an Arab-language publication, in an interview covered by Israeli media on April 26.
Lieberman further threatened that if Iranian forces attack Israel, the country’s military will respond “and destroy every Iranian military outpost in Syria threatening Israel.” The defense minister also said that while Tel Aviv did not seek war with anyone, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria – “whatever the cost may be.”
“We haven’t intervened in the war in Syria since it began seven years ago. The Iranians, Hezbollah, other militias, Russia and ISIS are there. Everyone is fighting each other and I wish them all success there,” Lieberman said. “We are not intervening, but Iran is trying to establish bases in Syria and arm them with advanced weapons,” he said
“From there it wants to attack us. I cannot sit idly by while I watch Iran do that close to the Golan Heights, while it supports Hezbollah, Syria and Lebanon.“
SF recals on April 9, the Israeli Air Force carried out a missile strike on the T4 airbase in Syria where Iranian forces were located. At least 7 Iranian servicemembers, including an officer, were killed in the attack. According to reports, Iran uses the T4 airbase to operate UAVs across Syria.
Following the T4 strike, Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened Israel with a response to punish the move. However, no direct military actions have been taken by Iran so far. Most likely, Teheran will focus on strengthening its positions in Syria instead of attacking Israel directly. The growing Iranian influence poses much more threat to Tel Aviv in a long term than some limited retaliatory attack.
Israel has repeatedly contacted Russia asking it to help to limit the Iranian influence in Syria. However, it looks Tel Aviv has failed to achieve this goal. Moreover, Russia continues its efforts to strengthen the Syrian Air Defese Forces limiting Israeli capabilities to strike Iranian targets in Syria.
On April 26, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the US is not going to withdraw its forces from Syria soon and that the US-led coalition has to expand its efforts against radical elements (ISIS) in the country.
“Right now we are not withdrawing [troops],” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We are continuing the fight, we are going to expand it and bring in more regional support.”
The US is another hope of Israel to limit the Russian and Iranian influence in Syria.