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Iran's Nuclear Program, Political Ambitions Endanger Region, Says Israeli Defense Chief

Grab: Israel -- Defense Minister Lieberman, Tel Aviv, 04Sep2018

Iran's enmity with Israel has led Arabs to realize it is Iran's radical regime that is their enemy, not Israel, said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda on September 4.

"This is perhaps the first time moderate Arabs realize Iran is their main enemy, not Israel, the Jewish people or Zionism," he said. "We owe this change in attitudes among Arabs to Iran, and this is a step forward.”

"First Time Moderate Arabs Realize Iran Is Their Main Enemy" Avigdor Lieberman
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He was referring to what international media, including the New York Times, have characterized as an unwritten alliance against Iran that brought Israel closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2017.

However, Lieberman made it clear in the interview with Radio Farda, "We do not have any problem with the Iranian people, but we have problems with the fanatic and crazy regime. Every day, they have a speech or statement saying that they are going to destroy the state of Israel and that they would never accept our existence. Even there was an inscription in Hebrew on one of their missiles saying that they want to wipe Israel off the map. That is an irrational approach."

"We Don't Have Any Problem With The Iranian People" Avigdor Lieberman
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Lieberman told Radio Farda's Mehrdad Mirdamadi that Israel is determined not to allow Iran to continue its military presence in Syria.

Israel's defense chief warned that his country will seek to "destroy any Iranian military presence" in Syria, where Tehran has intervened to prop up its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, in a more than seven-year war.

"We will try to destroy any Iranian military presence on Syrian territory, be it an air base, a naval base, a missile production factory, or the Shi'ite militias that they are bringing there from Pakistan, Iraq, and all of the Middle East," he said.

Asked if there was a reduction in Iran's activities in Syria as Iranians have claimed, Lieberman said, "I am not sure if they are speaking about the reduction of their activity in Syria," adding that Tehran had adopted a "different approach" in Syria, although he did not reveal any specifics.

Iran Has Adopted A "different approach" In Syria Says Israel's Defense Minister
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"They have adopted some other patterns of behavior in Syria because they understand that we are monitoring, we are watching, and we have all the political will and determination to prevent their desire to turn Syria into their forward base against Israel [from being fulfilled]," he said.

"They are careful, and they understand that they have too many challenges," he added. "We hope our message is quite clear that we would do anything to prevent the establishment of a military base in our neighbourhood or bringing militia from different countries to Syria."

Israeli military strikes against Iranian targets in Syria have been mostly ignored by Russia, Damascus' backer, and Israel has attempted to persuade Moscow to pressure Tehran to withdraw its forces from Syria.

Nevertheless, stressing the history of the friendship between Iranians and the Israeli people, Tel Aviv's defense chief said, "Israel believes Iran is an independent country and has every right to cooperate with Israel as a partner," further stressing that "we are not against economic, diplomatic, and other forms of cooperation between Iran and Israel."

Elsewhere in the interview, Lieberman told Radio Farda that "the combination of Iran's nuclear program and political ambition is dangerous for the Middle East."

Iran has backed Assad in the Syrian conflict and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has played a crucial role on the ground.

The IRGC has recruited tens of thousands of Shi'ite fighters from the region to fight in Syria. More than 1,000 Iranians, including senior members of the elite IRGC, have been killed in Syria since 2012, according to Reuters.

Iranian officials say their military presence in Syria is at the invitation of the Damascus government and they have no immediate plans to withdraw.