Dore Gold at the Wilson Center
Dore Gold at the Wilson CenterWilson Center

Foreign Ministry director general and former ambassador to the UN Dr. Dore Gold recently asserted that Iran poses an even greater threat to Israel, because it intends to turn Syria into a "province of Iran."

Speaking at the Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC on Monday, Gold described the leading state sponsor of terror as "a country of 80 million seeking to get nuclear weapons."

In his nearly hour-long talk, Gold said he "firmly believes Iran wants to turn Syria into a province of Iran."

Shi'ite Iran has been propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is a member of the Alawite minority that belongs to a branch of Shia Islam.

The Foreign Ministry director explained that Iran is "involved in creating a social and political change that incorporates Syria into the Iranian state."

He warned that should Tehran succeed, Israel will face a strategic threat in the form of an Iranian regime foothold on its northern border.

Iranian religious outreach in Syria is not just "a question of building Shi'ite mosques," said Gold. "It's a question of a permanent deployment against Israel from the north. That's something we cannot accept."

Gold's assessment was given backing by Philip Smyth, an expert on Shi'ite militia movements at the University of Maryland.

Smyth told Business Insider on Wednesday that Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini "was not a supporter of Iranian nationalism (unless he needed to use it to rally fighters/build support) and wanted a true and total pan-Islamic government under his religious guidelines/ideology."

"Gold makes a valid point," said Smyth. "There have been Iranian moves to convert people, build Syrian versions of Hezbollah, and to place more forces within Syria."

Iran has reportedly told Syria in the past to open a war front with Israel on the Golan Heights. Experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year propping up Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country.

The reason is said to be Iran's need to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and strengthen its growing regional influence.