(ANTIMEDIA) — The post-ISIS Syrian phase of the Syrian war will be unpredictable, to say the least. According to Reuters, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Israel is prepared to take action in Syria to prevent Iran from dominating the region after ISIS falls.
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Iran is public enemy number one for Israel, and its strong presence in Syria, which was mobilized to help bolster the Assad government throughout the Syrian conflict, has Israel fearing a permanent Iranian military presence, which would be very close to its border.
“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyahu reportedly told Putin.
“We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”
According to Reuters, Putin did not make any comments in response to Netanyahu’s remarks about Iran’s role in Syria or his threat to take unilateral action in Syria.
“Bringing Shi’ites into the Sunni sphere will surely have many serious implications both in regard to refugees and to new terrorist acts,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters after the three-hour meeting with Putin, Reuters reported.
Russia has partnered with Iran and Turkey in recent times to take control of the Syrian conflict, and it seems unlikely that Vladimir Putin will abandon both Syria and Iran anytime soon. That being said, if Israel takes a minor action to defend its direct interests, particularly in the Golan Heights area, Putin may allow Israel’s acts to go ahead without any dramatic consequences to a certain extent.
Reuters notes that Israel’s main concern would be keeping Iranian forces away from the Golan Heights, which is under Israel’s control. If Israel pursues this strategy without expanding its presence in Syria further, Russia may ultimately sit on the sidelines without intervening.
For example, Israel has struck Syrian territory multiple times throughout the Syrian conflict (in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, etc), and Russia has not threatened to retaliate against Israel for these actions. In fact, Russia and Israel have a hotline to prevent their warplanes from colliding, which suggests Russia has accepted Israel’s desire to involve itself in some capacity in the Syrian conflict.
According to Reuters, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Alexander Petrovich Shein, said Russia would take Israel’s interests into account, and if it were up to Russia, “the foreign forces would not stay.”
However, Reuters quoted Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia as saying “We [Russia] know the position of Israel towards Iran but we think that Iran in Syria is playing a very constructive role.”
In that context, Russia will not view any unilateral action favorably if it disrupts the current de-escalation process that Russia has been working to establish for some time now with the help of regional players Iran and Turkey.
Essentially, it will depend on how far Israel or Iran want to provoke one another after ISIS is defeated. Russia has no desire to see Israel and Iran go to war in the Syrian battle theater; in fact, it is a scenario Russia would probably happily avoid. Russia has its own interests outside of Iran and Israel’s regional ambitions, namely to prop up the Syrian government against foreign-backed jihadists and to protect its naval base – not to provide air cover for Iranian forces to confront Israel near its border.
Missing from any credible assessment of this emerging conflict is the fact that the Syrian conflict was instigated by world powers in the first place out of concerns that Israel needed to protect and retain its nuclear monopoly by toppling the Syrian government, which would, in turn, curb Iranian influence. This strategy directly drew Iran into the conflict, and now Israel has to face the possibility of a permanent Iranian military presence on its border.