Jerusalem may be eyeing different redlines in Syria in hopes Moscow’s message to Assad will reduce Iran’s presence.
On November 10 the BBC revealed that Iran is building a “permanent military base in Syria.” The report came complete with aerial photos, yellow boxes and labels. It stressed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Iran against such a permanent presence.
Then, during an interview published Tuesday on Ynet, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that there is no physical Iranian presence in Syria. Liberman appeared to downplay the warnings from the prime minister, President Reuven Rivlin and others, asserting that the Iranian presence is relatively modest and consists of hundreds of experts and advisers.
The comments by Liberman come amid reports in the Kuwaiti Arabic newspaper al-Jarida that Netanyahu sent a warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad via Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep Iranian forces 40 kilometers from the border. Allegedly, this took place during Putin’s meeting with Assad on November 21, when the Syrian president hugged Putin and thanked him “for all the efforts that Russia made to save our country.”
Liberman chose his words carefully during the Ynet interview, speaking deliberately.
“Iran is not on our border,” he said, when pressed about his comment that “we don’t just speak,” implying that Israel also acts to defend its interests, and that all the “players” know Israel is a strong power in the region.