Soviet Union-born Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman is a big fan of Putin and often encourages Bibi to get cozier with Vlad. But Putin propping up the Iranian-allied Syrian regime has made things awkward for Lieberman. So he’s apparently got a solution: to keep Israel on good terms with Russia, the U.S. must stay in Syria and risk fighting Russia. From the Los Angeles Times:
Israel faces blowback from suspected role in Syria strike
By NOGA TARNOPOLSKY
APR 10, 2018 | 2:55 PM
Israel faced international blowback on Tuesday over the bombardment of Syria’s largest air base, a center for the Iranian military effort to support Syrian President Bashar Assad. Although it has not acknowledged a role in the attack, Israel is widely believed to have carried it out.
Lebanon announced it would complain to the United Nations about the “Israeli intrusion” into its airspace. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the strike as “a dangerous development” in the Syrian civil war, now in its eighth year, and Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow for a rebuke.
The bombing of the air base, known as T4, came the day after reports emerged from Syria of a suspected chemical weapon attack on civilians in Damascus’ rebel-held suburb of Duma. It was unclear whether there was any connection between the two events. …
As is customary, Israeli officials refused to comment on the bombing. But on a visit to an emergency command center along Israel’s northern border with Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman alluded to Israel’s concerns over Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and its fear that President Trump may order the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, as he has proposed.
Israel views Iran as its greatest enemy, and a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.
“I don’t know what happened there and who attacked,” Lieberman said of the Syrian strike. “I know one thing with certainty: We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves in Syria, whatever the price may be. We have no other choice.”
Allowing Iran to remain in Syria, he said, was akin to “agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks. We will not allow it.”
Eliot Higgins, the founder of the investigative reporting site Bellingcat, said in an interview that, in addition to a strictly military purpose, bombing T4 may serve as an Israeli signal to a wavering Trump that it is possible to respond militarily against Russia and Syria in the Syrian arena.
This, he says, is what drew Russian ire. “Russia clearly sees it as a threat,” he said.
Trump has said he will make a “major decision” in the next day about how to react to the suspected chemical attack. The White House has not commented specifically about the apparent Israeli airstrike. In Israel, there is concern that the country’s traditional allies are not speaking out in support of its position. …
If Trump withdraws U.S. troops from Syria, [Alex Grinberg] added, it will be “a real gain” for Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Khamenei.