U.S. hopes Russia will keep letting Israel hit Iran in Syria

“Israel has an existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems."

November 7, 2018 21:24
2 minute read.
U.S. hopes Russia will keep letting Israel hit Iran in Syria

An S-300 air defense missile system launches a missile during the International Army Games 2017 outside Astrakhan, Russia August 5, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)


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The United States said on Wednesday it hoped Russia would continue to allow Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s supply of the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government.

“Russia has been permissive, in consultation with the Israelis, about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria. We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue,” Ambassador James Jeffrey, Washington’s Syria envoy, said in a conference call with reporters.

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He explained that aside from the Russian military actions in Syria, “You’ve got four other outside military forces – the Israeli, the Turkish, the Iranian and the American – all operating inside Syria right now. It’s a dangerous situation,” Jeffrey said.

Moscow said in October that it had delivered the S-300 surface-to-air missiles after it accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet by Syrian air defenses following an Israeli air strike nearby.

Like Russia, Iran is a key military supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israel regards Iran as its most dangerous enemy and has staged repeated air raids against its military and allied militias deployed in Syria.

“Israel has an existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems... inside Syria to be used against Israel. We understand the existential interest and we support Israel,” Jeffrey said.

The downing of the Russian jet in September underscored the risks attached to the presence of numerous foreign militaries operating in proximity in Syria, he added.

“Our immediate effort is to try to calm that situation down and then move on to a long-term solution.”

US policy is to ensure the enduring defeat of Islamic State, work on a solution to the conflict under the terms of United Nations Security Council resolution 2254, and ensure that all Iranian-commanded forces leave Syria entirely, Jeffrey said.

He spoke just days after meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has insisted that its aerial strikes in Syria have not been curtailed, but Moscow-Jerusalem ties have been tense since the September 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane.

Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have not met since that incident. They initially intended to meet on the side lines of the Paris Peace Forum on November 11, but their meeting was canceled due to French objections to side-bar meetings at its 100th anniversary event to mark the end of World War I.

A bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin was similarly canceled. A new date was set for the G20 in Buenos Aries at the end of this month, whereas no new date has been set for the Netanyahu-Putin meeting.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov publicly told Israel this week that its air strikes in Syria were inflaming the region, adding that Russia had previously warned Israel privately against such strikes.

The US seeks to regularize cease-fires now in place in Syria, move toward a political solution, and then have all foreign forces that have entered the conflict since 2011 – except Russia – leave.

Iran has said it will stay in Syria as long as Assad wants it to. Turkey has staged two incursions into northern Syria since 2016 that were aimed at curbing the role of Kurdish forces, which the United States is supporting, against Islamic State.

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