(January 1, 2019 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that the United States would stand by its commitment to Israel’s security amid a planned withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
“The decision by the president on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel,” Pompeo told Netanyahu during a joint press conference prior to their meeting in Brazil, where the two men are attending the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement late last month that he would be removing some 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, some Israeli officials and experts have expressed concern that the pullout would embolden its regional foes such as Iran, Turkey and Russia, while putting the Jewish state’s own security at risk. The U.S. forces in Syria are part of an effort to defeat the Islamic State terror group in the country.
“The counter-IS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continues, and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made. So we have a lot to talk about today.
“We will work closely together to make sure we get this right,” said Pompeo.
On Monday, it was reported that Trump would gradually pull U.S. troops out of Syria over a four-month period. Earlier reports suggested that Netanyahu had asked Trump to stagger his planned withdrawal from Syria.
Additionally, Pompeo expressed support for Israel’s “Operation Northern Shield,” which was launched in early December to find and destroy Hezbollah tunnels under the Lebanese-Israeli border. So far Israel has found and destroyed five Hezbollah tunnels.
“We understand the threat that violation of Israeli sovereignty presents to the region and the country, that threat from Iranian Hezbollah,” said Pompeo.
Netanyahu said that he will discuss with Pompeo the U.S. pullout from Syria, as well as cooperation on blocking Iranian aggression.
“We’re going to discuss the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decisions on Syria—on how to intensify even further our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East, to roll it back.”
“That’s a common aim, and I have to say that I’m also very appreciative of the support, strong support and unequivocal support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria and Hezbollah just in the last few days.”