Israel's Defense Chief Warns Iran: Syria Will Become Your Vietnam

Comments by Naftali Bennett follow remark from Israel's foreign minister, who was quoted as saying Israel would consider striking Iran if it came close to being nuclear-capable

Naftali Bennet outside a cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, December 1, 2019
Marc Israel Sellem

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Israel's defense minister warned Iran against its continued presence in Syria, saying Israel will "work tirelessly" to prevent the establishment of a stable Iranian military presence in the war-torn country. 

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"It is no secret that Iran is trying to establish a ring of fire around our country, it is already based in Lebanon and is trying to establish in Syria, Gaza and more," Naftali Bennett said on Sunday at a conference held by Makor Rishon, an Israeli newspaper associated with the religious right. "We need to move from containment to attack." 

"We say to Iran: Syria will become your Vietnam," Bennett added.

His comments come a day after Israel's foreign minister, Yisrael Katz, was quoted saying the Israeli government was considering military action against Iran, should it pursue nuclear military capability.

"Is bombing Iran an option that Israel is considering?" Katz was asked by Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"Yes, it is an option. We will not allow Iran to produce or obtain nuclear weapons. If it were the last possible way to stop this, we would act militarily," Katz replied.

Katz also criticized European countries for not supporting the hard line the United States has adopted under President Donald Trump, withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

"As long as the Iranians delude themselves into thinking they have Europe's backing, it will be more difficult for them to back down," Katz said.

Netanyahu and his administration have long been engaged in bellicose rhetoric against Tehran, and have taken numerous military steps in attempting to curb Iranian influence in the region - especially in Syria.

In November, the Israeli military hit dozens of targets in Syria, more than half of them Iranians, after rockets the IDF identified as coming from Iranian forces in Syria were fired at the Golan Heights. At least 23 were killed, with more than half estimated to be Iranian, or Iran-backed fighters.