Sputnik: Please tell us what are Israel's general objectives in Syria?
Benny Miller: Israel's objectives basically in Syria are only related to international security and that refers to two elements, one is to prevent armed convoys from Iran to Syria to Hezbollah, and the second one is to minimize the Iranian military deployment in Syria, because both Hezbollah or Iran are posing potential military and security threats to Israel.
Sputnik: Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that his country will not allow Iranian entrenchment in Syria, while Iran says it is fighting terrorism there, so why does Israel so strongly oppose Iranian presence in Syria?
Benny Miller: It has nothing to do with Iran supposedly fighting terrorism, basically Iran is fighting in order to protect the Assad regime. This fight also includes the fight against the Islamic State [Daesh]* but the fight really focuses on killing as many insurgents including relatively moderate insurgents against Assad regime, but, anyway, Israel is not involved in the Syrian Civil War and what is the future of Syria under a political arrangement.
What concerns Israel is basically it's own security interests and in this sense Iran declared numerous times that it is a threat to Israel's existence, that it's aiming at the destruction of the state of Israel, and naturally Israel would feel the Iranian military deployment not far from its border as poses a potential security threat to Israel, so Israel sees the Iranian role in Syria not in the context of the Iranian help to the Assad regime, or fighting against the terrorists or other insurgents, but as posing a security threat to Israel.
Sputnik: US President Donald Trump recently promised a forceful response to the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, would Israel support a possible US military strike against Bashar al-Assad's government?
Benny Miller: Yes, Israel has already declared that it's condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, Israel will probably support it but will not play any active role in such an attack, President Trump is trying to establish a multinational coalition for the potential attack on Syria, but Israel will not be part of this coalition. Israel only cares about immediate and concrete threats to its national security. It's not involved in the potential response to this use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, even though it condemned it like the majority of the international community, which is completely opposed to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Israel will not respond in this context, only to threats to its own security.
Sputnik: Reports say that Washington has a detailed map of 22 Syrian targets in response to the chemical attack in Douma; meanwhile British Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected Donald Trump‘s decision to join the operation against Damascus. In your opinion, how could the events unfold now?
Benny Miller: I think it seems that President Trump has already committed the Unites States to a military response, but I think nobody can know, especially when it involves President Trump. But it looks like he's committed to some sort of military response which probably will be at a higher level, higher intensity than the attack last year, when America responded to the earlier use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
So, probably, there will be a response, Russia will heavily condemn it, but I don't think it will escalate into a military conflict between the two powers, even though there's always a danger.
So the United States is on its way out, but that's what troubles Israel. Israel is very worried that while Iran, Russia and Turkey consolidate their control and engagement in Syria, Israel is left alone without its ally which is the United States, so definitely this worries Israel, and Israel would like the United States to continue to be involved in Syria as well as in the Middle East in general. That conflict with President Trump's views which is in favor of military disengagement from the Middle East, even though it has a very close relationship with both Saudi Arabia and Israel.
*Daesh is a terrorist group banned in Russia and other countries
The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.