United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks with Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon before the start of a UN Security Council meeting on Jerusalem and Palestine..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“Iran is currently controlling 82,000 fighters in Syria,” Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
Danon told the executive body that he was ready to expose “classified information” for the first time, “because it is vital for the world to understand that if we turn a blind eye in Syria, the Iranian threat will only grow. This includes 3,000 members of Iran’s infamous Revolutionary Guard, 9,000 fighters from Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, and 10,000 members of violent Shi’a militias recruited from across the Middle East including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, Iran also directly commands 60,000 local Syrian fighters.”
Danon noted that the Israeli security establishment believes Iran is spending an estimated $35 billion on training and equipment for fighters in Syria, money that was part of a windfall Tehran received following the nuclear agreement that was finalized more than two years ago.
“Since the signing of the [nuclear deal] in 2015, Iran has only increased its military spending. In 2014, 17% of Iran’s government spending went to its military expenditure. This past year, in 2017, this number ballooned to 22%. That’s $23b. spent on missiles, arms and other weapons of war,” the ambassador said.
Danon continued: “Why does Iran keep recruiting these extremists to be killed in the battlefields of Syria? Why is Iran building bases to house these fighters for the long run? The answer is clear. To further destabilize Syria and our region. To further threaten Israel, and to further terrorize the entire free world.”
He stressed that the international community must not “allow Iran to continue funding worldwide terror, pursue its dangerous internal arms buildup, and grow its military presence abroad.”
Following Danon’s remarks inside the UN Security Council meeting, the veteran diplomat took questions from reporters, where he warned that the Islamic Republic plans to maintain a presence in Syria “for the long run.”
Iran wants to destabilize Syria in order to maintain a base inside the country, with the aim of terrorizing Israel and its neighbors across the region, he said.
The Security Council “cannot sit idly by” as Iran continues to establish a military front on Israel’s northern border, Danon insisted, urging the international body to “act immediately.”
Danon was also asked about the status of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which was the item scheduled for discussion at the 176th United Nations Security Council meeting held on Thursday.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu... is ready to sit and negotiate with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas,” Danon said.
“Abbas, on the other hand, is not willing to negotiate... not in Ramallah, not in Jerusalem, not in New York.”