Israel may need to take military action to prevent Iran or Hezbollah from setting up permanent bases in Syria, former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said on Monday.
Amidror’s comments come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told journalists in Paris that Israel was opposed to the Syrian cease-fire brokered recently by the US and Syria because it perpetuates Iran’s military presence in the the country.
If Israel’s interests are not taken into account by those determining what the future arrangements will be in Syria – the Americans, Russians or others – “that might lead the IDF to intervene and destroy every attempt to build [permanent Iranian] infrastructure in Syria,” he said.
Amidror, a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies who has remained in contact with Netanyahu, made his comments during a press conference with journalists organized by The Israel Project.
“We will not let the Iranians and Hezbollah be the forces that will win the very brutal war in Syria” and then move their focus onto Israel, he said. Up until now Israel has been very careful to say out of the war in Syria, saying it will only intervene – and indeed only has intervened – to protect the red lines Netanyahu established: that game-changing weaponry is not transferred to Hezbollah via Syria, that Hezbollah and Iranian troops are not on the border with Israel, and that the Iranians do not establish permanent bases in Syria.
Amidror said that the cease fire plan was made without taking into sufficient consideration Israel’s need to defend itself.
“At the end of the day it is our responsibility, not the responsibility of the Americans, or the Russians, to guarantee ourselves, and we will take all the measures that are needed for that,” he said.
Explaining how the Americans and Russians — with which Israel has good ties and a dialogue — agreed to a deal that could allow for a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, Amidror said that the Russian strategic goal in the cease-fire was to ensure that Assad’s regime remains, and the the American strategic goal was to destroy Islamic State.
Israel, he said, needs to “take care of its strategic goal,” which he defined as “keeping Iran and Syria from building launching pads in Syria.”
Amidror said that that while Israel obviously wants to see the killing in Syria end, “the price can’t be having Iran and Hezbollah on our borders.”
He said that Israel has both diplomatic and military options to keep this from happening, and said “both options should be used.”
Amidror attributed Iran’s current success in the region to the Iranian nuclear deal signed two years ago. Iran, he said, is implementing a strategy that for the first time in modern history places them on the cusp of establishing a land corridor from Tehran, through Baghdad to Damascus and the Mediterranean.
“The ability of the Iranians to do what they are doing now in Syria and Iraq, and be involved in both Syria and Iraq, and their relations with Hezbollah, it is all built on the legitimacy they gained from this [nuclear] agreement,” he said.
Amidror said that it is very much in the Iranian interests to abide by the agreement, since in the meantime they are changing the contours of the entire Middle East. After the period of the agreement ends they can then dash to the nuclear finish line, with their strategic situation in the region considerably improved, as well as their ability to withstand any new wave of sanctions.
“The agreement is the source of all the problems ,” he said. “It is even more dangerous than we imagined when signed.”