Iran Must Not Replace ISIS in Syria, Netanyahu Tells Putin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “internalized” his warning that Iran must not be allowed to fill any vacuum left by the Islamic State in Syria.

“One of the things that we are fighting against together is radical Islamic terrorism,” Netanyahu said before meeting with the Russian leader in Moscow, The Times of Israel reported. “Of course, there was significant progress last year in the fight against the terrorism of radical Sunni Islam led by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and Russia has a very important contribution.”

“It’s obvious that we wouldn’t want this terror to be replaced by radical Islamic Shiite terror led by Iran,” he added. Tehran has been a close ally of Moscow in supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu told Israeli reporters that he expressed Israel’s “strong opposition to Iran’s entrenchment Syria,” and that the Russian president had “internalized” his warning.

“Since Russia began intervening in the Syrian war a year ago, Russia became an important actor in Syria itself,” Eyal Zisser, a Middle East expert from Tel Aviv University, told the Times. “But of course this intervention has to do with the strategic interest of Israel. Russia became a neighborhood country, so you need to coordinate, you need to establish open channels of communication in order to ensure that no accidents will occur along the border.”

Zvi Magen, a former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told Haaretz that “Russia won’t give up on Iran as an ally but the Russians know that Israel has its key interests and red-lines in the region and it’s very important for Putin to keep Israel neutral in Syria. He understands he has to make sure Israel’s interests are served, as well.”

To Putin, Netanyahu is also representative of American and Sunni Arab interests, Magen said, which makes it more likely that the Russian president will pay attention to his concerns.

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]