In a press conference described by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as “bizarre” and filled with “lies, ramblings and nonsensical rants,” Donald Trump on Wednesday stunned Israeli officials with his seemingly reckless remarks about the new role of Iran in the Syrian conflict, following the pullout of United States troops from Syria, Israeli media reported.
Trump suddenly and unexpectedly announced on December 19 that he would order all U.S. troops in Syria withdrawn, as Inquisitr reported.
But among their other functions in Syria, U.S. troops were intended to keep a check on Iran’s military activity inside of Syria. Iran sees Syria as the key piece in its plan to establish military and political dominance in the Middle East, as an analysis by the Atlantic Monthly magazine noted last year — a dominance that would pose a direct threat to Israeli national security.
Trump in 2016 campaigned in part on what he said was his strong support for Israel, as a Times of Israel analysis has noted, and last year he followed through on a promise to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv, a move strongly backed by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But in his off-the-cuff, 90-minute exchange with reporters on Wednesday, Trump appeared indifferent to what will likely now be Iran’s increased presence in Syria, following the U.S. withdrawal, stating, “they can frankly do whatever they want there,” as quoted by Haaretz.
Trump’s casual statement seemingly giving Iran permission to “do whatever they want” in Syria, and his subsequent assertion that “Iran is a much different country than it was I became president,” left Israeli officials stunned, according to a senior Israeli government source who spoke to the Israeli news outlet YNet.
“We are in a state of shock. Trump simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Iranian military’s presence in the region,” the Israeli official told YNet. “It’s unfortunate that he isn’t paying attention to the evidence provided by the intelligence services.”
Israeli officials had already expressed dismay over Trump’s announcement in December that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak saying on Twitter that “the Iranians are celebrating” Trump’s decision.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon added, “Of course the American decision is not good for us,” according to a Reuters news agency report.