Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami on Monday accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of keeping the Middle East in a perpetual state of conflict in order to damage the Iranian economy.

Hatami also said Israel’s threats to attack Iranian targets were empty during an interview with Lebanese television station Al-Mayadeen, in which he confirmed earlier reports that Iran had signed an agreement to rebuild the army of Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian regime.

“I think Netanyahu maintains a tense atmosphere in the region to create an economic impact on the Islamic Republic,” he said.

“Knowing our capabilities, I believe that Netanyahu’s threats to attack Iranian forces in Syria are far from reality,” Hatami added, citing Iran’s air defenses.

Adding a threat of his own, Hatami said that “the Syrian government has the right to respond to any aggression against it, as has happened in the past. Syria’s allies are ready to respond to any aggression.”

During the extensive interview, the Iranian minister said his country had previously signed an agreement with Damascus to rebuild Syrian armed forces that have been hit by years of war,  thwarting U.S. and Russian attempts to force Iranian troops out of the country.

Hatami said the agreement includes the rehabilitation of Syria’s defense industry and assured that Iran will provide “a good service”.

“With this agreement, we have paved the way for a reconstruction of Syrian military industries,” he said.

“The most important element of the agreement is the rebuilding of the Syrian armed forces and defense industries so that they can regain their full capability.

General Amir Hatami the minister of defense of Iran in Presentation ceremony Secretary of Defense and Armed Forces Support august 22 2017
General Amir Hatami the minister of defense of Iran in Presentation ceremony Secretary of Defense and Armed Forces Support August 22 2017/ Wkikimedia CC

Iran’s incursion into Syria is seen by Israel as a serious security threat, and Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has endeavoured to prevent Tehran’s forces and allies from continuing to establish themselves in the Arab country’s territory.

Israel, without officially confirming or denying them, has carried out attacks against bases and positions of Iran and its allied militias since the Tehran regime began to position itself in the Arab country.

In recent months, Israel has negotiated with Russia for a possible total or partial withdrawal of Iran from the region, but nothing concrete has been achieved. At the end of July, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, said that any withdrawal of Iranian troops was not “realistic” for the time being and that Russia could not be led to force such a movement, due to its “important role in eliminating terrorists from Syria”.