Netanyahu To Putin: Iran Must Leave Syria Or “We Will Act”

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

For Netanyahu and other Israeli officials the chief concern was never the black clad death cult which filmed itself beheading Americans and burning people alive.  “Let the Sunni evil prevail,” they say.

Israel is threatening to escalate military action in Syria against perceived Iranian interests. This week Netanyahu declared“we will act when necessary according to our red lines” while hinting he prefers ISIS presence in Syria as opposed to Iran aligned fighters at his border. This comes as ISIS is now crumbling, and at a time when most world leaders of nations driving the external proxy war in Syria have toned down their rhetoric regarding the future fate of the Assad government.

After years of a regular drumbeat of bellicose statements emanating from the West and repeat talk of “Assad must go”, “red lines”, and years of constantly failed predictions that “regime demise is imminent,” there now seems a general acceptance that the Syrian government has emerged victorious in the 6-year long conflict. Not only did Trump this summer order the closure of the CIA’s regime change program which targeted Assad, but it appears even Gulf nations – lately embroiled in their own inter-GCC political civil war and airing of dirty laundry – have been forced to temper their rhetoric. Turkey also has reluctantly shifted its priorities in Syria after its well-known and documentedregime change machinations – which included facilitating the transfer of tens of thousands of foreign jihadists (the core of which joined ISIS) across its southern border – have largely backfired. International media too, generally reflecting undeniable geopolitical realities, have bluntly headlined stories with “And the winner is: Assad” and “We have to accept that Assad will win in Syria” and “How Assad is Winning”.

But it appears Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t get the memo. On Wednesday the Israeli Prime Minister told Russian President Putin that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria and further signaled willingness to go to war in Syria to curtail Iranian influence. “Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyahu told Putin, adding further that, “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”

Netanyahu To Putin: Iran Must Leave Syria Or "We Will Act"

The two leaders met for three hours in the Black Sea resort of Sochi – their sixth such meeting since September 2015. Putin did not respond publicly to the provocative words on Syria during the portion of the meeting open to reporters. Netanyahu later told Israeli reporters covering the meeting that:

Bringing Shi’ites into the Sunni sphere will surely have many serious implications both in regard to refugees and to new terrorist acts. We want to prevent a war and that’s why it’s better to raise the alarm early in order to stop deterioration.

Netanyahu’s reference to “the Sunni sphere” came after he summarized the closed door part of the discussion as dealing with “Iran’s attempt to establish a foothold in Syria in the places where ISIS was defeated and is leaving.” Netanyahu’s comments are a reflection of an extremely disturbing view which has become so prominent within Israeli defense circles as to be considered establishment: that ISIS is ultimately preferable to Iran and Assad. This is to say that continued ISIS presence in Syria and Iraq is a viable option and possibly better than pro-Iranian or even Russian spheres of influence in the Israeli prime minister’s mind. Of course, this “lesser evil is ISIS” view is nothing new. In Israel, for example, there are even “respected” think tanks tied in with major public universities which openly call for allowing ISIS to thrive in Syria.

The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, for example, which is one of Israel’s most internationally visible and influential think tanks (and located on the campus of Israel’s second largest university), published a policy paper last year which made a direct appeal to Israel’s Western partners with the unambiguous message contained in the essay’s title: “The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake.”Author and Director of the Begin-Sadat Centre, Efraim Inbar, argued against a Western military campaign to destroy ISIS while envisioning the group as an effective tool in sowing terror and chaos in Iran and Syria, with the added benefit of keeping Russia bogged down in defense of the Assad government. Inbar spelled this out clearly:

The continuing existence of IS [Islamic State] serves a strategic purpose. The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.

While acknowledging the Islamic State’s utter genocidal brutality, the paper concluded:

The Western distaste for IS brutality and immorality should not obfuscate strategic clarity.

Netanyahu To Putin: Iran Must Leave Syria Or "We Will Act"

policy paper published by an influential Israeli think tank which contracts with NATO argues that ISIS is a “useful tool” for Israel’s strategic defense. 

Various current and former Israeli defense officials have echoed this point of view over the years, including former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, who in 2014 surprised the audience at Colorado’s Aspen Ideas Festival when he said in comments related to ISIS that, “the lesser evil is the Sunnis over the Shias.” Oren, while articulating Israeli defense policy, fully acknowledged he thought ISIS was “the lesser evil”. Likewise, for Netanyahu and other Israeli officials the chief concern was never the black clad death cult which filmed itself beheading Americans and burning people alive, but the possibility of, in the words of Henry Kissinger, “a Shia and pro-Iran territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut” and establishment of “an Iranian radical empire.”

Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren: “Let the Sunni evil prevail.”

Of course, such a perspective also tends to assume that Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty is non-existent (but instead seen as a mere extension of Iran and Russia), even as both countries now stand in better position in terms of operational sovereignty with Syria having liberated Aleppo and Iraq having regained Mosul. And that’s perhaps why there’s increasingly uninhibited truth-telling in Israel, the Gulf, and D.C. these days: the party is over in terms of the hoped for regime change in Syria. Perhaps now there’s simply more blunt and open talk wherein assumptions are laid bare as introspective strategists realign their talking points while still eyeing the ultimate neocon prize of regime change in Iran.

Though still rarely acknowledged in international reports, Israel has engaged in overt acts of war in Syria since at least 2012 and 2013, when it launched a massive missile attack against a Syrian defense technology facility in Jamraya outside of Damascus. In 2016 Israel went so far as to target Damascus International Airport, killing a well-known Hezbollah commander. In a significant admission last week, the head of Israel’s air force acknowledged nearly one hundred IDF attacks on convoys inside Syria over the course of the past 5 years. Earlier this summer Netanyahu himself was caught on a hot mic bragging that Israel had struck Syrian targets at least “a dozen times”. And this is to say nothing of Israel’s covert support to al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria’s south, which has reportedly involved weapons transfers and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, the latter which was widely promoted in photo ops involving Netanyahu himself. As even former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell once directly told the Israeli public, Israel’s “dangerous game” in Syria consists in getting in bed with al-Qaeda in order to fight Shia Iran.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Israeli plans for rolling back Iranian presence in Syria came mid-summer of this year, when Trump agreed to a southwest Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ with Russia, which would necessarily involve Iranian cooperation. The agreement implicitly acknowledges Iran’s troop presence in Syria as legitimate, and as reported at the time further “ignored Israel’s positions almost completely.” But analysts are in general agreement that the US-Russia brokered deal has been relatively successful and a step in the right direction. Even the Reuters report on this week’s Netanyahu-Putin meeting seemed to acknowledge the deal’s effectiveness:

Russia has so far shown forbearance toward Israel, setting up a military hotline to prevent their warplanes or anti-aircraft units clashing accidentally over Syria.

But given that Israel has already invested itself so heavily in the push to remove Assad while routinely launching attacks on Hezbollah with impunity, it is unlikely to disengage from Syria anytime soon, even as close Western allies publicly change their tune. Netanyahu’s brazen words to Putin that ‘preventative’ escalation in Syria to destroy what Israeli defense officials commonly call the “Iranian land bridge” (or the so-called ‘Shia crescent’) may in reality be empty diplomatic posturing, yet it does reveal increased Israeli desperation as even the West is seeming to ignore Netanyahu’s repeatedly declared “red lines”.

Regardless, Netanyahu remains the Syria regime change lobby’s best hope. Already, within less than 24 hours of Netanyahu’s Russia visit, neocon columnists are calling for him to unilaterally “take action”:

If he really expects others , especially Putin, that he means business this time, he will have to go beyond words and into actions, as clearly Israel could not and should not allow Iran to turn South Syria into another South Lebanon.

With ISIS foldingrefugees returning to their homes, stability taking root over large swathes of Syria, and successful de-escalation zones holding over parts of the country, it appears that only Netanyahu (along with terror groups like ISIS) is left unhappy in the region. Yet Syria continues on its current hopeful trajectory and path to recovery.

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  • Ma_Laoshi

    The difference between Israel and Europe in this dossier is a simple one: many times now, Europeans have had a chance to meet the moderates in their own streets, and *feel* what it is that their own governments have supported in Syria. Funny how quick you learn once you have to start burying your own people. Even the US got a taste here and there, but Israel has mostly skated by without experiencing any consequences. Russia seems as determined as the West to shield Israel from the consequences of their own recklessness; but then don’t act surprised if Israelis continue to behave like spoiled children.

  • Justin

    BRING IT ON!!!!!
    REFERENCE: “THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION”; “THE TALMUD”!

    Israel: “Yeah we started this war and its not going the way we wanted it too. So now we have to escalate because our plan backfired! Instead of Surrounding Iran and containing Russia, now we will be contained and surrounded! Its not Fair I tells ya, we are Jews, we are special, you’re all just Gentiles who are supposed to reap and sow while we sit and eat! You are all only animals and even the best of the Gentiles should be killed. why isn’t this going to plan”.

  • Keren Walters

    What’s the matter Israel? Running out of Palestinian lands to steal and no more Palestinian babies’ legs to break? As you found out in 2006, an army whose only recent battlefield experience is brutalizing occupied civilians doesn’t do too well against a real army, especially the real men of Syria. You will drag your sorry arses home again, change your panties and cry on each other’s shoulders until the next big weapons shipment arrives from your superpower benefactor and you dry your tears, before continuing to shoot stone throwing children again . . .

  • Langaniso Mhlobo

    The only threat in the Arab Muslim world is Israel and USA=NATO.

  • Langaniso Mhlobo

    Satanyahu of Israel like to gun point Putin.Throughout the six years war Israel was the only country who sabotaged Syrian government success with USA=NATO and Turkey.Putin is weak to USA=UN security council let him and China signed sanctions and turn around and imposed sanctions against Russia and China. Answer is destroy your brother so that we can debt you alone and easily destroy.

  • gfsdyughjgd .

    Israel government is devil chosen government to destroy peace.God chose this evil just to saved Israelis the their turn around and kill Jesus the God himself.The only way to bring Israel to since is fire to fire same to USA/NATO no negotiations eye for eye fire to fire let the messile destroy targets no more listening.USA will suffer the most if North Korea war break out.Their have too many vulnerable high risk bases around the world.USA rely on useless European nato.If war break out their will run away .European whites doesnt want to die.Russia always give faulse information nowing that USA will suffer the most.

  • gfsdyughjgd .

    USA drop moab bomb in Afganistant still Taliban fights them their drop nuclear bombs in Iraq,Syria,Lybia but still failing to get their illuminati goals.Resistance is the only answer with devastating brutality against USA mother of Satan.

  • Romjo

    Interesting article.
    The first reaction one immediately may have is obvious: Israel is bad doing that.
    One point however deserves to be highlighted even if already mentioned in it. Iran openly says that they want to destroy Israel.
    Bud of course nobody is shocked by this.

    Since Iran may be on the verge of having eventually nuclear weapons on the long term, I can understand it is perceived as a deadly menace by Israel. And hence that ANY action against that Iran is seen by them are justified.

    It was a free remark, I am an european, atheist and I don’t care about what could happen there.

    Just the outraged reactions I have seen here made me laught a little.

  • Helen4Yemen

    Natanyahu: we Jews control America!

    Natanyahu had asked that the video recording be turned off but it was turned on somehow – unaware that he was being recorded made this admission about Jewish control of America.

    Netanyahu Brags About How Easy To Manipulate The US

    Background: Netanyahu is visiting the home of a woman who just lost her husband, and she is being comforted by five other widows. There’s a young boy present, and Netanyahu asks that they turn off the camera so he can speak to them “freely”. The camera gets turned on again in mid-conversation.

    Netanyahu: Are you starting to understand what the slogan “Judea and Samaria are right here”? What does Arafat want? He wants one big settlement. It’s called “Tel Aviv”.

    Woman: Yes, that’s what my daughter in law, who comes from England, that’s what she says: “Tel Aviv is a settlement too.”

    Netanyahu: As far as they’re concerned, I think, our territorial waters are also their?
    -? [inaudible]

    Netanyahu: The fact is that they want us in the sea, yes, but over there in the sea [points aside]. The Arabs are currently focusing a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one hit, so many painful its that the price will be to heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing.

    Woman: They’re not afraid, they’re making fun of us. They shoot into our settlement and make fun of us.

    Netanyahu: Fear that everything is collapsing. That’s what leads them to… [makes a hand motion]

    Woman: wait a moment, but then the world will say “how come you’re conquering again?”

    Netanyahu: the world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.

    Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?

    Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right correction.

    Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…

    Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.

    Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…

    Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” look. That administration was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.

    Child: But never mind that we gave them things, and we can’t take them back. Because they won’t give them back to us.

    Netanyahu: (holds his and to stop him from speaking): first of all, first of all, Oslo is a system – you’re right. A, I don’t know what can be taken and can’t be taken.

    Woman: he has political opinions, believe me.

    Netanyahu: He’s right.

    Woman: He said such things to Arik Sharonthat. I told him: that’s not – that’ not a child’s opinion. The Oslo Accords are a disaster.

    Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that.

    Woman: Fine, so I thought that…

    Netanyahu: The people [nation] has to know.

    Woman: Right. But I thought that the prime minister did know, and that he’d do everything so that, somehow, not to do critical things, like handing over Hebron, that…

    Netanyahu: What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?

    ((Note: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.))

    Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.

    Woman: Right [laughs]. The Beit She’an settlements. The Beit She’an Valley.

    Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what ,U.Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter – to me and to Arafat, at the same time – which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to me and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment, I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.

    Woman: And despite that, one of our own peope, excuse me, who knew it was a swindle, and that we were going to commit suicide with the Oslo Accord, gives them – for example – Hebron. I never understood that.

    Netanyahu: Indeed, Hebron hurts. It hurts. It’s the thing that hurts. One of the famous rabbis, whom I very much respect, a rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, he said to me: “What would your father say?” I went to my father. Do you know a little about my father’s position?

    Woman: Yes.

    Netanyahu: My father is…

    Child: No. [laughs]

    Woman: He’ll read in a little while.

    Netanyahu: He’s not exactly a lily-white dove, as they say. So my father heard the question and said: “Tell the rabbi that your grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milikowski, was a smart Jew. Tell him it would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent.” The trick is not to be there and break down. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.

    Woman: Can you say that as prime minister.

    Netanyahu: In my estimate that will happen.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrtuBas3Ipw

  • Russian225

    Oh they will act ? I don’t remember Israel had anything to say about other countries and who their partners should be.