For Israel and for Refugees, Assad Has to Go, US Lawmakers Say

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Screen Capture
UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Screen Capture

JERUSALEM, Israel – With ISIS largely defeated in Syria, Israel is sounding the alarm about Iran's intentions to fill the vacuum in that country on its border.

From his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to the visit of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has one message.

"Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel," Netanyahu said. "It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept."

A senior Israeli official was even quoted recently as warning Russia that Israel would bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's palace in Damascus if Russia allowed Iran to make military advances in Syria.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the United States and Israel are "of the same mind" when it comes to keeping Iran from spreading out in Syria.

"Iran is a scorpion that will bite you eventually. You can't cozy up to them," Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, told CBN News.
"So you see a growing concern in the United States about where Iran is headed and what their intentions are," Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-TX, said.

Visiting U.S. lawmakers voiced their support for a strong U.S. position.

"So that means, yes, sanctions, but it also means beefing up our military so that we can deal with this growing threat," said Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services committee.

Oklahoma Republican Congressman Steve Russell said, "It's very important that we have a serious discussion of 'OK' now that the US military has once again achieved a pause: What will we do politically with that, what will we (do) diplomatically, what will we do economically? These are all questions that have to be answered for the Sunni Arab in both Syria and Iraq and because if there is no future for them, no accommodation then it's just going to be some new black flag group, round 14 of whatever other conflict you want to try to spin it off from."

Lankford says the U.S. hasn't been clear on Syrian policy.

"Iran is currently propping up Bashar Assad and if we leave Assad in place there, then that means Bashar Assad owes his position to Iran, and Iran is going to do whatever they want in Syria. That's a threat to Israel," Lankford said.

It's clear, he said, Assad has to go.

"We have to have the removal of Assad.  We have to be very clear to the Russians, to the Iranians and to the people of Syria that there has to be a transition," he continued. "Ten million refugees cannot return to Syria if Assad is still there. The reason they fled was because of Assad. If we're going to have any kind of normalcy back in Syria, Assad has to leave."

That, Lankford said, is in the best interest of Israel and the refugees.

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