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January 1, 2019 11:04 am

Syria Pullout Won’t Undermine US Efforts to Counter Iran in Middle East, Pompeo Tells Netanyahu

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avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Brasilia, Jan. 1, 2019. Photo: Avi Ohayon / GPO.

The withdrawal of American troops from Syria — announced by US President Donald Trump last month — was a top agenda item at a meeting on Tuesday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brazil.

Pompeo and Netanyahu sat down for a face-to-face chat in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro.

Trump’s controversial Syria move drew a lukewarm response from Israel, which is concerned about Iran’s activities in its war-torn neighbor to the northeast.

“We have a lot to discuss,” Netanyahu said as Tuesday’s meeting with Pompeo began. “We’re going to be discussing the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the American decision on Syria, and how to intensify, even further, our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere. To block Iranian aggression in the Middle East, roll it back, that’s a common aim.”

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Netanyahu also thanked Pompeo for the “unequivocal support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria and Hezbollah, just in the last few days.”

Pompeo told Netanyahu that the pullout of US military forces from Syria “in no way changes anything this administration is working on alongside Israel.”

“The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” he added.

Later on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said Pompeo and Netanyahu had talked about “the unacceptable threat that regional aggression and provocation by Iran and its agents poses to Israeli and regional security.”

The secretary of state and prime minister last met in Belgium, at the start of December.

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