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Israeli Leader Vows To Keep Iran From Establishing Military Bases In Syria

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will prevent Iran from establishing military bases in Syria and demanded changes to the Iran nuclear deal in an address before the United Nations General Assembly.

Iranian-backed militia and military advisers have been fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war, and Israeli leaders have recently charged that Tehran is now moving to establish a permanent presence there.

Netanyahu said on September 19 that Tehran was trying to lower what he called an "Iranian curtain" across the Middle East, "from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean."

"We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea, and ground forces," Netanyahu said. "Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms.... Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril."

On the 2015 nuclear deal, Netanyahu said, "change it, or cancel it. Fix it, or nix it."

The Israeli leader in particular took aim at the deal's "sunset" clauses, which allow restrictions imposed on Iran's nuclear activities such as uranium enrichment to expire after 10 years in 2025, echoing a criticism made on September 19 by the United States.

Israel has maintained that once the restrictions expire in 10 to 15 years, Tehran will be in a position to quickly resume work on developing an atomic weapon.

Netanyahu addressed his strongest words to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an avowed foe of Israel, and appeared to avoid criticizing the more moderate Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

He also sought to draw a line between Tehran's government and its citizens, saying in Persian to the Iranian people, "You are our friends."

"One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you.... And when that day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again," he said.

Iranian leaders did not immediately respond to Netanyahu's address.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuter