Direct conflict between Israeli and Iranian forces is increasingly likely in Syria as Tehran pursues a permanent military presence there, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned on Thursday.  Addressing a congressional panel before hosting his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, at the Pentagon, Mattis said it was “very likely” from his perspective, “because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.”   Receiving Liberman, Mattis told reporters that he saw no reason for Iran to ship advanced missiles to Hezbollah through Syria except to threaten Israel.  “I can see how it

might start, but I am not sure when or where,” the secretary told lawmakers. Mattis then echoed Liberman’s warning from earlier in the day, issued through a Saudi newspaper, in which he said Israeli forces would strike Tehran if Iranian missiles ever hit Tel Aviv. The two met at the Pentagon after Liberman met with US President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton; his special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt; and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, at the White House. READ MORE