JERUSALEM, Israel – Iran’s growing threat in Syria is expected to top the agenda when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday in the Black Sea city of Sochi. Accompanying Netanyahu are Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Meir Ben-Shabbat, newly appointed head of the National Security Council.
A little more than a week ago, Cohen and several senior Israeli officials met with U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and others in Washington.
According to media reports in Israel and abroad, the Israeli delegation was disappointed with U.S. reticence to pressure Iran into withdrawing its troops from Syria rather than expanding its military footprint there.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s former national security advisor Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror told Israeli journalists via teleconference that Israel must focus on its security concerns vis-à-vis Iran’s creeping encroachment in Syria and Lebanon.
“I think that the main goal should be better understanding of the Russian leadership [of] what are the interests of Israel in Syria, what are the concerns of Israel in Syria, [and] what are the red lines,” Amidror said.
It’s important, he said, that future Israeli actions, whatever they may be, do not catch the Russians by surprise: “They will understand what motivated Israel and why Israel is acting as it will.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu called Iran’s growing influence in Syria “further proof that Iranian aggression has not subsided in the least following the (U.S.-led) nuclear agreement, something which poses a problem not just for Israel but for every country in the Middle East and the entire world.”
While Amidror admitted that providing Putin with Israel’s perspective may not bring agreement between the two leaders, it’s still important to do so.
“It should be well understood all over, mainly in Moscow, that Israel will do whatever is needed not to let the Iranians to build these bases and not to let Hezbollah to get these weapons systems,” he explained.
“Israel cannot trust the Russians and Israel does not ask the Russians to take care of the Iranians,” he added.
What Israel must do is prepare itself for future actions and operations it may need to take.
For about two years, Netanyahu and Putin have been meeting in person every couple of months and staying in touch by phone in between those visits. Wednesday’s meeting is their ninth visit, five of which have been in Russia.
In 2016, Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer told CBN News the Russians were taking advantage of the “vacuum” created by the Obama administration.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, August 23, 2017, and reposted with permission.