US President Donald Trump has been rebuked by a senior Israeli official for giving mixed messages over Iran and Syria. The unnamed official cited in the Times of Israel, is said to be "in shock" after Trump implied that Iran "can do what they want" in Syria.
The controversial remark was made during a cabinet meeting where Trump is reported to have said: "They [Iran] can do what they want there, frankly," while suggesting Tehran was removing its troops from the country.
Explaining his comments, Trump said that Iran had been weakened by the US' decision to leave the 2015 nuclear deal and the reintroduction of fresh sanctions. "Iran is no longer the same country," he said. "Iran is pulling people out of Syria. They can do what they want there, frankly, but they're pulling people out. They're pulling people out of Yemen. Iran wants to survive now."
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His comments were rebuked in Tel Aviv. "It is sad that he is not attentive to intelligence materials," the unnamed Israeli source said. "I am quite simply in shock," the source continued. "Trump simply does not know what is happening in Syria and the Iranian entrenchment there."
Israel has made no secret of the fact that it sees Iran as a major threat to its security. They have repeatedly warned that America's absence would open the door for Tehran to create a so-called "land bridge" from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, into Lebanon and to the Mediterranean Sea.
Trump however spooked his Israeli allies by announcing his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. His surprise announcement was met with shock and resignation of members of his administration.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to explain Trump's decision to Israel by insisting that cooperation with Israel over Syria and Iran will continue. Even Trump appeared to back down from his earlier comments saying that there was no time frame for US exit from Syria. Explaining his decision, which appears to be a retreat, he said the US will get out of Syria "over a period of time" in order to protect the US-backed Kurdish fighters in the country.
READ: Iran's policy in Syria post-US troop withdrawal