Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted Sunday at Israel’s involvement in striking Syria last Wednesday, but fell short of directly acknowledging the Israel Air Force’s alleged hit on targets including a weapons convoy en route to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Barak addressed press reports of an Israeli airstrike that Syria says targeted a scientific research center and that the US says hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons inside Syria bound for the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group.
“What happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we say something we mean it — We say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon,” he said.
Israel hasn’t publicly acknowledged the airstrike, though a respected former senior Israeli official, ex-national security adviser Giora Eiland, did indicate that Israel was responsible.
Barak added that he saw the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad as imminent, and that it would be a major blow to Iran.
He added that “Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left.”
He said in his view Assad’s fall “is coming imminently” and when it happens, “this will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah.”
“I think that they will pay the price,” he said.
Assad responded to last week’s alleged Israeli strike for the first time on Sunday while speaking with Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili in Damascus. He said that Israel’s aggression “exposes the true role conducted by Israel in collaboration with the external forces hostile [to Syria] in destabilizing security in Syria and weakening it so that it forgoes its national principles.”
“Syria is capable of withstanding any foreign aggression through the awareness of its people and its steadfastness in clinging to the course of resistance,” he said.
Iran’s foreign minister, also speaking at the Munich conference, welcomed the United States’ willingness to hold direct talks with Tehran in the standoff over its nuclear program but isn’t committing to accepting the offer.
Vice President Joe Biden told the security conference Saturday the US is prepared to talk directly with Iran but insisted Tehran must show it is serious.
Iran’s Ali Akbar Salehi told the same conference Sunday that Iran views recent US statements “with positive consideration.”
But he was wary about prospects for talks. He says Iran must be sure the US has “a fair and real intention to resolve the issue” and complains about “threatening rhetoric.”
New talks involving all five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are due soon. Salehi said they’d be held February 25 in Kazakhstan.