‘Syrian missile stockpile reduced to half’

Defense minister says Assad in a state of panic; ‘One way or another,’ Ya’alon also says, Iran must not reach nuclear capabilities

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at Tel Aviv University, November 2013. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at Tel Aviv University, November 2013. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni)

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s missile stockpile has dropped by half, and the unrest in the war-torn country is expected to linger for some time to come, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday.

“Assad is now dismantling his chemical weapons arsenal against his will,” Ya’alon said at an event in Tel Aviv University.

“He has been weakened, he fires missiles at his own citizens, and the number of missiles, including Scuds, has dropped to half.”

“Syria is certainly going to suffer chronic instability,” he said.

Ya’alon said Israel was keeping a watchful eye on its northern border, but added that the IDF does not predict any sort of attack from its neighbor.

“Sometimes a shell falls in our territory from Syria, then the launching site destroyed,” he said. “[But] there is no escalation.”

The defense minister went on to stress that Israel would not tolerate any violation of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. He pledged that any transfer of chemical or sophisticated weapons would be met with a forceful Israeli response

“According to foreign sources, we are proving faithful to our words,” Ya’alon said, apparently referring to reports that Israel secretly destroyed Syrian weapons facilities and foiled alleged transfers of these weapons a number of times.

The defense minister also commented on the recent talks in Geneva between Iran and the US, the UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany — the so-called P5+1, and stated that an easing of sanctions on Tehran would only strengthen the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations.

“There is a willingness to ease sanctions way too soon,” he said. “We say, if you want peace, prepare for war.”

Ya’alon added that the international community generally agrees that Iran was advancing its nuclear weapons program, and said that the Islamic Republic had decided to enter negotiations only because of sanctions.

“There is no argument that this project is a nuclear military one, with the aim of reaching [capabilities for] a bomb,” Ya’alon said.

“When the world began to impose sanctions, the Iranian regime concluded that it may not survive the economic crisis, that is why it made ​​a decision to enter talks with the West.”

The defense minster added that Israel would not accept a nuclear Iran, and would do everything in its power to prevent such a scenario.

“One way or another, we must prevent [Iran] from attaining nuclear capabilities,” he said.

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