War with Iran’s proxies could be ‘weeks’ away, Israel’s US envoy warns

A poster bearing an image of Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen in Damascus on September 7, 2017. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

 

Ron Dermer cautions that Tehran’s growing influence is likely to lead to military conflict, says regional peace deal is likely

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said Monday that his country is closer to a full-blown military conflict along its northern border than people think.

In a wide-ranging interview with US news site Politico, Dermer reiterated Israel’s assertion that it will not tolerate the presence of Iranian proxies in Syria.

“If Iran is not rolled back in Syria, then the chances of military confrontation are growing. I don’t want to tell you by the year or by the month. I’d say even by the week,” he said, accusing Tehran of stoking the tensions in Syria.

Because the more they push, we have to enforce our red lines, and you always have the prospects of an escalation, even when parties don’t want an escalation because we will not allow Iran to establish that presence and establish another terror front against Israel in Syria,” he added.

Asked exactly how likely war was, Dermer replied, “I wouldn’t put a percentage on that, but I think it is higher than people think.” He also asserted that the likelihood of conflict in Lebanon, where the powerful Iranian proxy Hezbollah is based, is higher now than it was two years ago.

“Absolutely. There’s no question. And it’s much higher in Syria,” he said. “I mean Assad basically is a vassal of the Iranian regime. And the forces that are on the ground, Shia militias and Hezbollah.”

However, he said, Israel had no issue with Russia maintaining a long-term presence in Syria.

Israel has long warned that Iran is trying to establish a permanent presence in Syria as part of its efforts to control a land corridor from Iran through to the Mediterranean Sea, as it attempts to expand its influence across the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said often that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a permanent presence in Syria, and was reported late last month to have sent a warning to that effect via a third party to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

‘Moderate to high’ chances for regional peace

In his interview, Dermer also discussed the close relationship between Israel and the Trump administration, and said he was optimistic about the chances for a regional peace deal, though he remained skeptical the Palestinians would agree.

“I would put those chances as moderate to high that we could be in that process,” he said. “Again, whether the Palestinians 71 years after the UN resolution, the Partition Resolution, will cross a Rubicon that they haven’t crossed in the first 70, I’m a little more skeptical about it. But it might be that the chances of them crossing the Rubicon will go up if they see that the region is prepared to reconcile with Israel.”

Full article: War with Iran’s proxies could be ‘weeks’ away, Israel’s US envoy warns (The Times of Israel)

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