Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Tuesday expressed growing concern over the presence of Iranian ground forces in neighboring Syria.
The embattled regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has long been propped up financially and logistically by the Islamic Republic. But fresh reports suggest Iranian ground forces are now massing in Syria to help Assad remain in power. This in addition to the large-scale presence of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, and the introduction of Russian military forces in recent weeks.
Steinitz stressed in an interview with Army Radio that Israel continues to take no official position on whether or not Assad should be deposed, since most of the rebel forces opposing him are actually worse than the ruling regime, but that permitting Iran to flex its military muscles in such a way is a dangerous mistake.
This move “has opened a direct front [between Israel and] Iran,” warned Steinitz, urging Russia and the international community to “ensure the Iranian army remains in Iran.”
Already Israel fears unintentional exchanges of fire between its own forces and the Russian military in Syria. Such a flare-up between Israeli and Iranian forces could give Tehran the excuse it needs to launch a long-range missile assault on the Jewish state.