Israeli Foreign Ministry Director: Expansionist Iran Wants to Turn Syria Into Iranian Province
“Iran wants to turn Syria into a province of Iran,” said the director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, on Monday, according to Business Insider.
Iran, said Gold, is “involved in creating a social and political change that incorporates Syria into the Iranian state.”
And Iran’s religious outreach to Syria is not just “a question of building Shi’ite mosques. It’s a question of a permanent deployment against Israel from the north,” he said, referring to the Iranian presence in the Syrian Golan Heights.
“That’s something we cannot accept,” he said, at a talk for the Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC, according to BI.
Iran’s backing of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is well known. The BI article suggested that Gold may have wanted to distinguish Iran’s support for Assad from Russia, which has also launched a military campaign in Syria helping to preserve the Damascus regime and stabilize Syria, but which also shares close military-to-military coordination with Israel, in part to ensure the two countries’ air forces do not accidentally collide.
In other words, Israel believes that whereas Iran may ultimately seek conflict with Israel — Israeli leaders fear a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state — especially through the terrorist group Tehran helped found in Lebanon in the 1980’s, Hezbollah, Russia probably does not, according to BI. This may have been what Gold wanted to convey to the “potentially influential DC audience” on Monday, according to BI.
Gold’s comments came about a month after Hezbollah operative Samir Kuntar, who was apparently charged with organizing infrastructure for the group, was reportedly assassinated by Israeli aircraft just outside Damascus. Some Israeli reports suggested Kuntar was actually working for Iran at the time of his death, rather than Hezbollah, making the assassination more a message to Tehran.
Iran, like Russia, claims to be battling terrorist groups in Syria fighting to unseat Assad. Hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel have reportedly been killed in Syria, the most senior of which was Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Hamedani last October. Additionally, hundreds of Hezbollah’s fighters have also been killed on the battlefield in Syria, according to Israeli reports.