Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday, and warned about the dangers of Moscow’s encroaching ally, Iran.
Greeting Netanyahu at the start of their Kremlin negotiations, Putin emphasized the high level of trust between them. This is Netanyahu’s fifth trip to Moscow in the past 18 months, and it follows his talks last month with President Trump.
In a joint photo-op before the meeting, Netanyahu praised Russia’s role in fighting the Islamic State terror group and other radical militants in Syria. But he also raised strong concern about the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria.
“One of the things that we are fighting together is radical Islamic terrorism,” Netanyahu said as he and Putin sat down for talks.
Netanyahu was accompanied by his national security advisor, his military secretary and head of military intelligence. Jerusalem is concerned with Iran’s presence in the region and its aspiration to form the so-called “Shia Crescent” that engulfs Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
While acknowledging the success in fighting ISIS, Netanyahu warned about Iran’s plans in the region.
“Of course, in the past year, there was significant progress in the fight against the radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by Daesh and Al Qaeda,” Netanyahu said, using another word for ISIS. “Russia has made a very important contribution. Naturally, we do not want this terrorism to be replaced by the radical Shiite Islamic terrorism led by Iran.”
Putin wished Netanyahu a happy Purim, and the Israeli premier responded by saying that in ancient Persia there was an attempt to destroy the Jewish people, but it failed, and that’s why the holiday is celebrated to this day. “Today there is an attempt by the continuation of Persia — Iran — to destroy the Jewish state. They say it in the clearest terms possible, they engrave it into their ballistic missiles,” Netanyahu said.
Fox News reported exclusively last month that shadowy Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani visited Moscow and met with high-ranking leaders there. According to the report, Soleimani came to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
Soleimani is considered to be the architect of Iran’s presence in the war in Syria, and he was sent to Moscow in the past to coordinate with the Russians.
Before the talks, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied media reports that Moscow has given Israel a green light to strike Iran’s proxy Lebanese organization, Hezbollah.