Speaking at the fifth Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit held in the southern city of Beersheba on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to intensify military action in Syria after the White House's unexpected order for all US troops to pullout out of the country — an effort that's expected to be complete within months.
“We will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s efforts to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not reducing our efforts, we will increase our efforts. I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the US,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister further revealed he was personally warned in advance that the American pullout was imminentduring during phone conversations with President Trump on Monday and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.
Notably US officials said Thursday that the Pentagon will likely halt the air campaign targeting ISIS once all troops are pulled out. Trump had declared American victory over ISIS the day prior. He wrote via Titter: “Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?” And added. “Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight.”
The President also said that US troops should leave and that “others” should handle the terror threat inside Syria. While he explicitly suggested that US "enemies" Iran, Russia, and Syria should be left to deal with fighting ISIS remnants, could the president also have had increased Israeli action in mind when it comes to the Iran threat in Syria?
Despite Netanyahu's latest provocative vow to "increase our efforts" in Syria, his threat has significant limits in terms of what Israel can actually do, given Moscow's recently completing delivery of its feared S-300 anti-air defense systems to Damascus. Additionally Syrian and Russian officials have of late signaled Damascus will retaliate in equal measure against any military attack.
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