South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican) warned Israel Thursday night that it could not accept the Assad regime in Syria without the continued presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in the area.
Ahead of his trip to Russia on Thursday for meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu told reporters that Israel had “no problem” with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
"We had no problem with the Assad government. For forty years, not a single missile was fired in the Golan Heights. ISIS and Hezbollah bothered us in Syria, and the situation remained the same. I made a very clear policy that we do not interfere. That hasn't changed."
Prior to Netanyahu’s departure, Senator Graham commented via Twitter, warning Israel that Russia could not be trusted to ensure that Iran allied Shi’ite militias quit Syria or remain far from the Israeli border.
“To our friends in Israel – be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence.”
Following Netanyahu’s comments to reporters Thursday, Graham tweeted again, challenging Netanyahu’s suggestion that Assad could remain in power, so long as Iranian and Hezbollah forces were withdrawn from Syrian territory.
“Just to be clear: Without Iran/Hezbollah, Syria’s Assad would not be in power and would not have the ability to slaughter almost a half-million Syrians. Without Assad’s blessing, the flags of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would not be on Israel’s front door.”
In a follow-up comment, Graham wrote: “ISIS and other radical Sunni groups PRAY that Assad stays in power in Syria. That allows them to recruit members to their cause in perpetuity.”
“Radical Sunni groups will say – correctly – that Assad is a proxy of Iran and the Ayatollah. It means the Syrian war never ends and ISIS comes back.”