Iran army chief warns ‘Zionists will burn’ if US attacks Syria

Tehran, Damascus step up threats ahead of anticipated American strike on Assad regime; Jerusalem still thinks it unlikely Damascus would tangle with Jewish state

Illustrative: An Iranian navy vessel launches a missile during a drill in the Sea of Oman, in January 2012. (AP/ISNA, Amir Kholousi)
Illustrative: An Iranian navy vessel launches a missile during a drill in the Sea of Oman, in January 2012. (AP/ISNA, Amir Kholousi)

Amid increasingly hostile threats from Syria and Iran that Israel will be attacked if the US carries out an anticipated punitive strike against the regime of President Bashar Assad for its chemical weapons use, Israel  reportedly sent messages to Damascus via third parties Wednesday warning Assad that any attack will be met with a forceful IDF response.

Iran’s leaders also issued warnings Wednesday to the United States over military intervention against their Syrian ally.

Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi was quoted by Israel’s Channel 2 Wednesday declaring that “if the US attacks, the Zionists will burn,” and an Iranian journalist said to be close to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly warned that Israel would “face tens of thousands of missiles.”

Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian analyst, warned on state television that an American strike would prompt a three-front attack on Israel — by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. A second Syrian television commentator, meanwhile, was quoted saying that “the land [of Israel] will tremble.”

Hassan Firouzabadi, left, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2011. (Screenshot: Youtube)
Hassan Firouzabadi, left, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2011. (Screenshot: Youtube)

On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz all publicly warned Assad not to tangle with Israel. Those public statements were reinforced by private messages, conveyed via third parties, Channel 2 reported Wednesday night. The US-led strike is not expected to be so extensive as to bring down Assad, whereas if Israel is hit,military sources have said in recent days, its response could well spell the demise of the Assad regime.

At the same time, Israel has been at pains to make clear that it has no desire to be drawn into the Syrian conflict, which has escalated internationally after Assad’s force used alleged chemical weapons to kill several hundred Syrian civilians in the suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday — crossing a “red line” set by US President Barack Obama to outlaw the employment of weapons of mass destruction.. The IDF has not raised its overall alert level, although some weekend leaves for soldiers in the north are reportedly likely to be cancelled. And the Israeli security cabinet was briefed Wednesday to the effect that the likelihood of Assad striking at Israel remained low.

Nonetheless, Israel on Wednesday began calling up about 1,000 reservists, and deploying anti-missile systems in the north. Iron Dome batteries also remain in Eilat and close to Gaza, should rocket fire emanate from the Sinai or the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Haifa’s Mayor Yona Yahav was briefed Wednesday by Home Front Command authorities and told to ensure that bomb shelters in the city were in good order. Israel is expected to be given several hours’ advance notice of an American-led strike.

In comments Wednesday directed at the US, Khamenei said in a meeting with members of the new Iranian cabinet in Tehran that “The US threats and possible intervention in Syria are a disaster for the region. And if such an act is done, certainly, the Americans will sustain damage like when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He cautioned the US and its allies that their military intervention in Syria would yield no result but blazing fire and an increase in nations’ hatred of them, the Fars news agency reported.

“Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences,” Khamenei said.

The speaker of the Iranian parliament , Ali Larjiani, said, “The result of such an unwise measure (a military attack on Syria) is regional anarchy which will entangle the naïve countries of the region.” Speaking in parliament, he said that if any war is waged against Syria, “the country which has been destroyed by the terrorists during the past two years will not sustain so much damage as the warmongers will receive in this war.”

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