Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin plan to meet in Sochi to discuss Iran’s presence in Syria. The meeting comes on the heels of the Israeli government releasing satellite imagery of a suspected Iranian Scud missile factory near Latakia, Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated in a recent speech, “We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hezbollah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security.”
The Jerusalem Post reports that this is the fourth meeting in 16 months between Putin and Netanyahu over tensions in the Middle East region.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released an itinerary for the upcoming bilateral meeting. The statement stated, “it must be noted that in the last two years Prime Minister Netanyahu has met with President Putin every few months to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the intention of preventing any clashes between Israeli and Russian air forces in Syria, with success until now.”
Israeli officials are concerned that the defeat of Isis in a destabilized Syria creates a power vacuum in the country that Iran will exploit by establishing a permanent military presence within the Syrian borders.
Mossad Director, Yossi Cohen, lead a delegation of high ranking Israeli intelligence and military officials in an urgent meeting with their American counterparts last week.
Ynetnews quoted the Israeli delegation as stating to their American counterparts, “We rushed here to warn of the deployment of Hezbollah, Iranian and Syrian forces; to explain exactly what’s going on there. Without a significant change in your (the US) position, if you don’t become more involved, tougher and more aggressive, you will leave the Middle East to the Iranians, under Russian auspices.”
Netanyahu is expected to pressure Putin on the ceasefire deal orchestrated in Syria by Jordan, Russia, and the United States. Netanyahu and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) are staunchly opposed to any long-term peace deal that does not include the mandatory and immediate evacuation of Hezbollah and Iranian military forces from Syria.
Israel and Russia have been in constant communication as the war has unfolded in Syria. Despite the open lines of communication, the Israeli-Russian relationship has not been without contention. At times, both sides have been at odds over Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah and Syrian military convoys in close proximity to Russian forces.
[Featured Image by Maxim Shipenkov/AP Images]