Israel’s defense chief says that, as neighbors go, he’d choose ISIL over the Iranians

Come over for dinner sometime.
Come over for dinner sometime.
Image: Reuters/Stringer
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If the Israeli defense minister was faced with the decision to choose between ISIL and the Iranians as Israel’s neighbor, he’d apparently pick the so-called Islamic State.

Moshe Ya’alon announced his rather controversial choice at an international security conference in Tel Aviv, where he was asked to choose between ISIL and Iran-backed groups for control of disintegrating Syria. His logic was that ISIL poses less of a threat than Iran. He said:

We believe ISIS will be eventually defeated territorially after the blows it has been suffering, and in light of the attacks on its oil reserves.

The defense minister, who is among a number of outspoken Israeli critics of the Iran nuclear deal that recently saw sanctions imposed by the US and EU lifted, emphasized that Iran is Israel’s “main enemy.” Israel had lobbied aggressively against the deal, but failed to convince the US that Iran presents a significant danger to Israel.

Ya’alon has been particularly outspoken on Iran’s presence in Syria, suggesting that Iran’s Quds Force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is “the only source actively working in Syria to attack us.” Ya’alon has also argued that the nuclear deal would make war more likely; he boldly described Iran as the “biggest exporter of terror in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

At the conference, Ya’alon added that the ongoing issues in the Middle East showed the region was at the “height of the clash of civilizations.”