Minister Optimistic on Russian Cooperation in Syria

Israel Russia
Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a member of the security cabinet, on Monday expressed a measure of optimism about Russia’s willingness to eventually accede to Israeli demands and oust Iran from Syria, The Times of Israel reported.

“Overall, I can say the following: No one wants the Iranians in this place: Not the moderate Sunni countries: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Not the Europeans, who are worried about millions of Syrians who have left Syria and are on their way to Europe as a result of Alawite control. And certainly not us or the Americans,” Galant told a conference in Yerushalayim.

“As for the Russians, they served for a certain time as ‘boots on the ground,’ a player in the field who is doing the dirty work. At a later stage, we will reach a situation in which they will be competing over the same resources and the Russians, too, won’t want the Iranians in the area,” Galant asserted.

He added, though, that such an outcome was not to be taken for granted, noting that the fact that Russia, allied with Hezbollah and Iran in the Syrian civil war, is not “against us, is amazing.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently played a key role in the Israel-Syria clash over the weekend. According to an analysis of the events in Haaretz, it was Putin who called a halt to a dangerously escalating situation.

Columnist Amos Harel pointed out that IDF attacks ended shortly after a phone call between Pres. Putin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, though the military had been considering another air strike.

The Russian Foreign Ministry objected to the violation of Syrian sovereignty by Israel while making no comment on the Iranian drone provocation which prompted it.

In the subsequent conversation with PM Netanyahu, Pres. Putin asked him to avoid moves that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.” One of the dangerous consequences, it turns out, was to the Russians’ own military base near Palmyra, not far from the sites targeted by Israeli planes.

Meanwhile, Iran voiced defiance. Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, responded on Monday to a media report that PM Netanyahu had sent Tehran warning messages via European countries that it must leave off its military buildup in Syria and Lebanon.

“This is our region. These countries have no right to prevent the presence of Iran in the region, which is carried out in accordance with the request of the Syrian government.”

“Germany, Britain and France are allowing themselves to operate in Syria, although they are not part of the region or belong to the Middle East, they are trying to stop Iran, and we do not attach importance to what these countries say. They have no right to claim that Iran is causing instability in the region,” Velayati was quoted as saying by Arutz Sheva on Monday.

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