Netanyahu: I Told Putin Iranian Forces Must Be Removed From Syria

Netanyahu, who met with Putin in Sochi, said he told the president Iran is trying to 'Lebanonize' Syria and take over using Shi'ite militias

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin in Sochi on August 23, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin in Sochi on August 23, 2017 ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he stressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin the importance of removing Iranian and Hezbollah forces from Syria in order to prevent a future war.

Speaking after his meeting with Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Netanyahu said the removal of these forces – as well as other Shi'ite militias from Syria – must be part of any arrangement on the day after the civil war.

Netanyahu also said Iran is trying to "Lebanonize" Syria and take over using Shi'ite militias.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Putin lasted about three hours and focused, for the most part, on the situation in Syria.

The Israeli prime minister noted that he had initiated the meeting with the Russian president and had also dispatched a security team to the White House last week, due to the fact that the reality in Syria has been quickly changing in recent weeks, following the collapse of the Islamic State group.

"It is not an exaggeration to think that within a certain period of time, the Islamic State will lose its territorial footholds in Syria," Netanyahu said. "There will be a much better prospect for cutting the current civil war short and preventing a future war if Iran is not in Syria.

"I made it clear to Putin that Iran's establishing itself in Syria will not aid stability in the region, and I told him that we want to prevent a future war and therefore it is important to warn in advance," said Netanyahu.

In a conference call with Israeli reporters at the conclusion of the meeting, Netanyahu added that he had presented the Russian president with the information Israel has in its possession regarding the Iranian establishment of its presence in Syria, as well as the assessment that the regime in Tehran is interested in creating territorial contiguity from Iran to the Mediterranean and in transferring military forces – including naval vessels, fighter planes and thousands of troops – to permanent bases in Syria.

Netanayhu also told Putin that Iran is trying to "Lebanonize"  Syria and take over using Shi'ite militias, as it had done with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"I told Putin that this is directed against us and therefore we will not remain apathetic," the prime minister told reporters. "I said this in the clearest and most explicit way. I expressed the seriousness of the matter, as we see it, to him.

“We will act where we need to in accordance with our red lines," continued Netanyahu. "When we have done this in the past, we did not ask permission but provided an update on what our policy is.

“The international community knows that when we say something, we also carry it out," he added.