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    Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, August 23, 2017

    'Iranophobia': Israel Misleading World Over Self-Defense Claims

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    Middle East
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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on the Jewish state defending itself from Iran hold no water, a Middle East expert told Sputnik.

    Commenting on the Israeli PM's concerns over Iran's influence in Syria, Ali Rizk, an expert in Middle Eastern studies, said that "this is Netanyahu's traditional approach which goes back to the beginning of the Obama administration's tenure."

    "Netanyahu has always used Iranophobic policy and rhetoric despite the fact that it is Israel which has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran and not vice versa," Rizk said.

    Touching upon Netanyahu's remarks that Israel is poised and ready to defend itself, including from Iran, Rizk recalled that "it is Israel which has always attacked other countries in the region and we have never seen Israel being attacked."

    "So this term ['to defend itself'] is quite misleading. Netanyahu is trying to give an impression that Israel is kind of a victim or that it is under threat – so that term is inappropriate," Rizk pointed out.

    According to him, Netanyahu is also trying "to make a Russian and American ceasefire agreement [on Syria] focus more on deterring Iran."

    He did not rule out a scenario of "Israel militarily intervening under the pretext of countering Iran's Hezbollah presence in Syria."

    "As for Iran, it is very influential in Syria…and Tehran has an important role to play when it comes to supporting infantry fighting on the ground in Syria in addition to the Syrian army's efforts," Rizk said, adding that "Iran's role is absolutely necessary."

    "You cannot say that we want a ceasefire [in Syria] without having Iran involved. You cannot exclude Iran and I think this is the main message," according to Rizk.

    During the talks between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort town of Sochi on Wednesday, the Israeli PM warned that that Iran must withdraw from Syria or Israel would "defend itself".

    In Sochi, the two leaders discussed details and conditions of a cease-fire in southern Syria. Netanyahu expressed concerns over the Iran’s increasing influence of the Syrian territories liberated from the Daesh terrorist group.

    Israel has been long opposing Iran's presence in Syria.

    In early August, the Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel, Russia and the United States held several rounds of secret talks in early July to discuss the Syrian issues.

    Israel at the time stressed the need to discuss the Iranian presence on Syrian territory, specifically the withdrawal of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Shiite militias.

    Iran has been providing support to the Syrian government in its fight against various terrorist groups, including Daesh; Tehran acts alongside Russia and Turkey as one of the guarantor states of the ceasefire in Syria.

    Iran also refuted the reports that its military had conducted independent operations in Syria.


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