Mossad head Yossi Cohen briefed government ministers Sunday on developments in the region – and those developments were not necessarily panning out in Israel’s favor, Cohen told ministers. “We have identified not just an Iranian and Hezbollah presence in our region,” Cohen said during the meeting. “We see Shiite forces from the entire world massing in our region. Our first priority is to stop this.”
Cohen portrayed the Iranian threat as the most significant one for Israel. There are two factors involved in the growth of Iranian and Shiite influence in the Middle East: one is the ceasefire in Syria, and the second is the impending defeat of the Islamic State, and the major losses IS has sustained in recent months. In the Syria situation, Cohen said that an Israeli demand that Iranian and Lebanese Shiite forces be removed from the country as part of the ceasefire imposed by the U.S. and Russia was rejected. Israel is trying to convince the superpowers of the need for removing those forces from Syria, but “the Americans have not yet adopted our objectives,” Cohen was quoted as saying at the meeting.
In the latter, Cohen said that Iran was expanding its influence in areas that IS has evacuated. Iran has been a chief force in fighting IS, and now the Iranians are reaping the benefits of their work. “Iran is working to fill the void in areas that IS is vacating,” Cohen was quoted as saying. “They are thus spreading their influence in diverse places, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The biggest threat in the region is the Shiite crescent, which is being hoisted throughout the area.”
In addition, Iran continues to pursue its dual dreams of nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Since the signing of the deal to “regulate” Iran’s nuclear program several years ago, Tehran has accelerated its development program – and has gained from the opening of international markets and opportunities that are available now that international sanctions against Iran have been lifted.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the meeting that the basic conception of the agreement with Iran was mistaken. He stressed that Israel was not in any way bound to the agreement, and that it would “continue to protect itself from these threats in a variety of ways.”