Israel's Defence Minister has insisted that his country will not allow any reinforcement of Iran's presence in Syria, local media reported on Wednesday. Avigdor Lieberman made his comments in response to a remark by the Russian Foreign Minister that Iran is in Syria "legitimately".
After a two-day tour along the nominal Israeli border with Syria — unlike every other member of the United Nations, Israel has never declared where its borders are — Lieberman said that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are "ready and well prepared" for any scenario. The Chief of Staff of the IDF, Gadi Eisenkot, and his Deputy Aviv Kochavi, as well as other commanders, accompanied Lieberman during his tour.
"We maintain complete freedom of operations," the far-right Lieberman explained. "We will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria, nor will we allow Syria to become a front line against the State of Israel." Those who have yet to understand this, he added, should understand it now. According to Ynet News, this was the first official Israeli response to the comments about Iran made by Russia's Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov's remarks were themselves a response to messages that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sent to the Russians and the Americans. "I clarified for our friends, first and foremost in Washington and also our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria… in accordance with its understanding and our security needs," Netanyahu pointed out.
In October, the Israeli leader also told Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu that Israel would not allow Iran to entrench its military forces in Syria.