Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared today that Israel would increase its efforts against Iran’s influence in Syria "in a very decisive way and with support and backup from the US.” The comments come after US President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he was pulling US troops out of Syria caught Israel by surprise, just as it did other US allies as well as Congress and key figures in the Trump administration itself. The United States had previously promised Netanyahu that US troops would remain in Syria until Iran and its proxies were removed. The Israeli leader, after speaking with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that the pullout will be coordinated with Israel.
Why it matters: Although the 2,200 or so US troops' main goal in Syria was to fight the Islamic State, their presence was also a warning to Tehran that Israel had a strong ally in the neighborhood and that Iran should stay clear of southern Syria. The timing is problematic for Israel, which has been busy over the past two weeks with its operation against Hezbollah's tunnels on the border with Lebanon. The US withdrawal signals to all parties involved in Syria that Washington is ready to relinquish its influence.