Danon says Iran has recruited 80,000 Shiite fighters in Syria

Ambassador to the United Nations argues Iran is training '80,000 extremist' in Syria.

The Imam Hossein Iranian Garrison  (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Imam Hossein Iranian Garrison
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Thursday sent out a stark warning of Iran’s dark ambitions in the Middle East, saying it is “spreading its tentacles” across the region in an effort to intimidate Israel.
“There are over 80,000 extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shia militias in Syria under Iranian control,” he told the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, as he held up a picture of what he said was a military base funded by Tehran just outside Damascus.
“What you see here in this image is Iran’s central induction and recruitment center in Syria,” Danon said. “We are presenting this image to the world so you can understand the depth of Iran’s involvement in Syria. It is at this base, just over 5 miles from Damascus, where these dangerous extremists are trained and then assigned their missions of terror throughout Syria and the region.”
Israel had “conclusive evidence” that a drone recently shot down by the IDF and launched from Syria belonged to Iran; after a military investigation there “is no doubt that this device was intended to attack Israel,” he said.
The IDF had identified the drone as a Shihad-129, identical to other unmanned aerial vehicles that have fallen over Syria and Pakistan in recent years, equipped with “offensive weaponry” and missiles, Danon said.
In February, the IDF said it had downed an Iranian UAV over Syrian territory that was equipped with explosives.
A statement released by the IDF shortly after the incident read: “The interception of the Iranian unmanned aircraft by an attack helicopter prevented an Iranian intent to carry out an attack in the territory of the State of Israel.”
DURING HIS remarks, Danon also addressed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, praising the Trump administration for its tough stance against Tehran and its determination to strengthen the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“In just two-and-a-half weeks, the United States will announce its important decision regarding the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” he said. “[US President Donald] Trump is focused on these important changes because he knows it will make the world safer...
“All the signatories of this agreement must now make a choice. Do you support these necessary changes? Or will you choose to enable the Iranian regime that supports terror and is attempting to take over the Middle East?”
Danon added that “Israel has a very clear policy, and it has been so since the administration of prime minister Menachem Begin. We will not allow regimes that seek our destruction to acquire nuclear weapons. Period.”
If the international community stands together, he said, then “Iran can be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons” and cease to be a threat to world peace.
Danon made the comments following remarks by PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, who castigated Israel over the recent killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border.
At least 40 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded since the start of the “Great March of Return” riots began on March 30.
Mansour railed against Israel’s continued settlement construction in the West Bank and its security blockade on the Gaza Strip, which the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said was exacerbating an “untenable humanitarian crisis” in the enclave.
Before the UN’s scheduled Security Council meeting on Thursday, Danon showed reporters the images he subsequently presented to the council, telling the journalists the UAV was equipped with an “offensive weapon.”
Danon also said Iran was using Syria to build a new front against the Jewish state and was devising plans to establish auxiliary paramilitary outfits modeled after Hezbollah that could pose a threat to Israel’s national security.
“We will never stand by while being threatened by our adversaries,” he said while speaking to reporters outside the Security Council chamber.
“We must stop the Iranian empire from spreading in the Middle East,” Danon added.
Scheduled for discussion at the 8244th Security Council meeting on Thursday was the “situation in the Middle East,” including comments on “the Palestinian question.”
The body also discussed ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria, civil wars that have created the worst humanitarian crises in the world.