Russia warned Israel on Wednesday not to authorize an attack on Iranian military positions in Syria after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to prevent a buildup on his borders.
"If anyone in the Middle East or [an]other part of the world plans to violate international law by undermining any other country's sovereignty or territorial integrity, including any country in the Middle East or North Africa, this would be condemned," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters.
Netanyahu has warned that Iran is building military facilities in Syria. U.S. and Israeli officials have worried for years that Russia and Iran, by partnering to protect Syrian President Bashar Assad, would emerge from the conflict with long-term strategic advantages, and Lavrov's comment suggests Russia's support for Iran's consolidation of those gains.
"[R]egarding whatever area of cooperation between Iran and Syria, my position is that if their cooperation in whichever field does not violate the basic provisions of international law, it should not be cause for question," Lavrov said.
Netanyahu argued that Iran wants a "noose to tighten around Israel" through a military buildup on its borders.
"Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts [in] its declared goal to eradicate Israel," Netanyahu said Monday during a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. "It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept."
Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree that Iran has shipped tens of thousands of rockets to Hezbollah, a terrorist group in Lebanon, including technology that could give them the precision-guided capability to hit major sites in Israel. "If they succeed in this, they can pick the tallest buildings in Tel Aviv, the main landmarks in Jerusalem, the airport, the ships in the harbor," House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in February.
Iran, with the help of Shia militias operating in Iraq and Syria, is poised to have effective control over a "land bridge" connecting the Persian Gulf power to their terrorist proxies in Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea. With a direct land connection, the Iranians may be able to threaten Israel even more directly.
"It definitely can lead to an immediate — probably in the near-term future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told the Washington Examiner in June. "We know that Hezbollah has a number of arms and rockets basically ready to launch against Israel and Israel's in a position now that they may have to act."
Lavrov brushed off such concerns. "We have no information that anyone is planning to attack Israel," he said Wednesday.