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Minister Says Israel And US Divided Up The Fight Against Iran

Israeli Education Defense Minister Neftali Bennett heads the religious-nationalist Jewish Home Party (Yamina). FILE PHOTO

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennet on Monday said Israel will counter Iran in Syria and the United States in Iraq according to a division of work between Washington and Tel Aviv.

“I met with my colleague the American defense secretary Mark Esper, and we sorted out the coordination exactly — they’re taking Iraq, and we’re taking Syria,” The Times of Israel quoted him as saying on Saturday.

According to The Times of Israel in a campaign speech on Saturday Bennett who is the leader of the right-wing religious Yamina party urged a "cold war" with Iran and said his aim was to expel Tehran's forces from Syria within a year and to turn Syria into the Islamic Republic's "Vietnam".

Iran was responsible for 70 percent of Israel's security problems in the region, the hardliner defense minister who was speaking at a synagogue in the suburbs of Tel Aviv said and likening Iran to an octopus with arms extending everywhere he promised to go for the "head of the octopus – Iran's power".

"I'm not necessarily talking about a full-blown war with Iran tomorrow; it is more similar to the Cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, with the two regional powers Israel and Iran," Bennett who indirectly admitted Israel was responsible for the recent airstrikes in Syria said.

"We are constantly working to raise the stakes for Iran until we reach our ultimate goal: removing them from Syria. We will continue to prevent an Iranian presence on our northern border,” Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying at Kibbutz Dafna during a ceremony.

Bennet said Israel has constantly been fighting Iran's proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and has not "focused enough on weakening of Iran itself" but is in a continuous campaign to weaken it "on the economic level, political, intelligence, military, and others".

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the raids on Kisweh, Mezzeh and Jisr Baghdad near Damascus and Ezra in the southern province of Daraa on February 6 killed 23 including three Iranians and seven Tehran-backed foreign fighters.

Israel has in recent months carried out several air raids against Syrian military sites and Iranian forces.