By Saagar Enjeti
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Israel would become involved in the Syrian civil war if Iran establishes an official military presence in the country, Israeli media reports.
Israel’s current policy towards Syria is to covertly strike any Iranian bound advanced technology shipments bound for Hezbollah militants or missile sites. Hezbollah is a Lebanese based Iranian backed militia that has traditionally focused its ire on Israel, but has thousands of fighters in Syria at the behest of the Assad regime.
Netanyahu laid out this policy in March, saying: “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it.” The new policy, however, is a stark warning to Assad and Iran as negotiations take place to forge the future of the country.
Iran is actively involved in negotiations to end the civil war and is said to be advancing the idea to Assad that it should be allowed military and possibly naval access. Israel fears Assad will give Iran and Hezbollah official access to Syria after the civil war ends and that this access could be used to develop missiles for the terrorist group.
“The goal must be to minimize Iran’s influence, not only in Lebanon but also in Syria… Israel has tried up until now not to intervene in what is going on in Syria,” Netanyahu reportedly told French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in a recent conversation. “But after the victory over Islamic State, the situation has changed because the pro-Iranian forces have taken control… From now on, Israel sees Iran’s activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so.”