Speaking in an interview with the London-based online Elaf Saudi newspaper, Lieberman said that while Israel did not seek war with anyone, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria—”whatever the cost may be.”
The rare interview with a Saudi newspaper came months after IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot also spoke to Elaf in November last year, calling for the creation of an international coalition against Iran. Other Israeli officials have also been interviewed by the paper.
“We haven’t intervened in the war in Syria since it began seven years ago. The Iranians, Hezbollah, other militias, Russia and ISIS are there. Everyone is fighting each other and I wish them all success there,” Lieberman quipped, before warning of Tehran’s attempts to set up military bases in the war-torn country.
“We are not intervening, but Iran is trying to establish bases in Syria and arm them with advanced weapons,” he said “From there it wants to attack us. I cannot sit idly by while I watch Iran do that close to the Golan Heights, while it supports Hezbollah, Syria and Lebanon.”
The Syrian T-4 airbase that was attacked recently, allegedly by Israel, contained an advanced Iranian air-defense system that was recently installed, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
Reiterating the point, the defense minister continued his tough talk against Iranian regime.
“I want to clarify: Every military outpost in Syria in which Iran seems to be trying to dig in militarily, we will destroy. We won’t allow it, whatever the cost. We hear many threats. If they attack Tel Aviv, we will attack Tehran. If there is not silence in Tel Aviv and in Israel, there won’t be in Tehran,” Liberman warned, while noting that ongoing talks with Moscow would prevent any accidental clashes between Israel and Russian forces.
“I know what I am saying and I don’t advise anyone to try us. We are ready for every possibility. The Russians know that we will not allow Iran to build bases in Syria and to transfer advanced weapons in order to attack us. There are talks and there won’t be any clashes with them,” he emphasized.
Turning to the Iranian nuclear agreement, the fate of which currently hangs in the balance as US Donald Trump threatens to withdraw if its “terrible flaws” are not fixed, Lieberman insisted that it was in Iran’s own interests to keep the Washington on board.
“The Iranians are frightened of the US withdrawing from the deal. The Iranian economy will collapse. I watch the national protests against the regime, the same regime that caused the economic collapse in Iran. I see what is happening to the Iranian currency that is rapidly collapsing every day. They know that the Iranian regime is in its final days and will soon collapse,” he continued
Lieberman also touched on diplomatic relations developing between Jerusalem and other Arab countries in the region. “There are quiet and and in-depth conversations with a few Arab countries. These negotiations are moving in the right direction,” he declared.
However, he refused to confirm whether or not security cooperation existed between Israel and those states, something that was noted by Eisenkot during his own interview. “It is safe to say that there is coordination. I call on them to come out into the light and to visit Israel like(former Egyptian president) Anwar Sadat did. Everyone will be welcomed,” he promised.
Agreements had been reached, he said, with the more friendly Arab states on seventy-five percent of the main issues.
“There’s about twenty-five percent left and they are more difficult, in my opinion. With the leadership in the Arab world the discussion is simple, but things are harder between the nations. I call on all Arab states: Come with us, with the start-up nation, with the high-tech technology. With your mens and economic power, we can create a change at the roots in the Middle East and the world,” he concluded.
An Israeli-Iranian showdown has loomed since February 10, when Israel said an armed drone sent from a Syrian base penetrated its air space. Israel blew up the drone and carried out a raid on Syrian air defences in which one of its F-16 jets was downed.
Reuters contributed to this report.