A senior Iranian official on Sunday claimed that the United States and Israel were conspiring to depose the Syrian government in advance of Iran’s presidential elections in June.
Lt. Gen. Yahya Safawi, a senior adviser to the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was also quoted by IRIB news, an Iranian state broadcasting station, warning Iranians of “hostile tactics” that may be used to damage the unity of the Iranian people and disrupt the elections.
Iranians head to the polls in mid-June to elect a new president as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second term comes to a close.
US President Barack Obama has indicated that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people constituted a crossing of a red line, but as yet no steps have been taken toward military intervention.
“For the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues,” Obama said on Friday.
Israel has largely refrained from involvement in the two-year-old civil war, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday instructed his ministers to stop giving interviews on the situation in Syria, and specifically on the Assad regime’s reported use of chemical weapons.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) ignored Netanyahu’s request and told reporters that the international community needed to intervene in Syria a long time ago considering the hundreds killed in the civil war each day.
“We expect whoever defines red lines will also do what is needed, first and foremost the US and of course the entire international community,” he said.
Peretz, a former defense minister, said that Israel would be forced to intervene in Syria if chemical weapons fall into the hands of “irresponsible organizations” like Hezbollah.
Amid increased discussion of international intervention in Syria, the head of Iran’s senior foreign policy and national security committee warned that any international military action against Damascus would result in a backlash against Israel.
The committee’s chairman, MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, told IRIB that “Syria has turned into the scene of failures of the US and its regional allies.” He emphasized that conditions were not suitable for an American intervention in the civil war, and that “any offensive against Syria would be tantamount to spread of war to the Zionist regime.”
Upwards of 70,000 people have died in the two-year conflict in Syria and over a million have fled the violence to neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.