One month after Trump launched another 105 Tomahawk missiles at Syria, the latest US assault on a sovereign nation has been mostly forgotten, but not to Israel which keeps reminding the world that another provocation to be follower shortly by another regional war, is just a matter of time.
Amid alleged Israeli tensions that an expected retaliatory attack by Iran – whose Syria-based forces Israel has repeatedly attacked in the past month – is imminent, Energy Minister, and cabinet member Yuval Steinitz issued a direct threat against the Syrian ruler, when during a Ynet studio interview on Monday he said that, “if Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime.”
Responding to a question on the readiness of Israel’s home front for a possible war in the north such an approach might lead to, Steinitz said there was “no absolute readiness.”
On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Iran may soon execute the retaliatory attack that previously vowed to carry out in the wake of the airstrike on the T-4 Airbase near Homs, which the Pentagon subsequently admitted was conducted by Israel.
However, since Hezbollah is expected to be involved in firing a missile barrage at a military base on Israeli territory, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s elite Quds Force Qasem Soleimani was reported to have decided to postpone the attack to immediately after the Lebanese elections which took place this weekend, in order to catch Israel unawares.
According to Ynet news, Soleimani and other IRGC officials have seemingly reached a conclusion — most likely with the assent of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — that US President Donald Trump had already made up his mind to suspend the 2015 nuclear deal, and that was therefore no point in waiting for May 12, when Trump is set to make his decision public.
Of course, with Israel setting the stage for an immediate retaliatory attack, it would be all too possible that a “false flag” attack is instead “launched” into Israel simply to give the IDF the green light to commence an attack on Syria or Iran.
In the Ynet interview, Steinitz also spoke about the years’ long civil war still raging in Syria, saying that Israel had thus far refrained from intervening in the internal conflict. “If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a forward operating base against us,” he clarified, “to attack us from Syrian soil, he should know that will spell his end.”
In a potential twist, the energy minister was then reminded of Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Moscow on Wednesday, where he will meet President Vladimir Putin, who will most likely be less than enthused with such statements. As reported previously, on Aprul 25 Russia is set to send advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, having warned Israel of “catastrophic consequences” should the Jewish state launch another attack on Syria.
“It’s excellent that the premier is going,” Steinitz countered. “He has engendered unprecedented dialogue with Putin. Russia is an important superpower with which we have a lot of mutual interests.”
“Sometimes there are also conflicts of interest,” he continued, “but usually our interests converge. Everyone should understand, however, that certain things are red lines for us. If anyone is interested in maintaining Assad’s survival, they should tell him to prevent missile and drone attacks on Israel.”
When asked if that meant Israel might assassinate Assad, Steinitz had a witty retort, saying any assassination of Assad would be his own doing: “He will have his blood on his head.”
Steinitz also suggested that his remarks did not reflect Israeli government policy, saying, “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.” Nevertheless asked how Israel could go about bringing an end to Assad, the Cabinet member explained that a similar dilemma existed regarding Lebanon in the past. “We deliberated whether the fact that Hezbollah was attacking us from Lebanon meant that we would only retaliate against Hezbollah or also strike at Lebanon.”
“Assad can permit them to attack Israel from Syria soil, or not. He can permit them to bring in missiles, antiaircraft systems and drones into Syria, or not, and if he does—he should know there is a price tag,” the minister concluded ominously.
Meanwhile, one week after his “huge” revelation that Iran was, at one point, developing nuclear weapons ended up being a giant dud on the international arena, Netanyahu commented on the Iranian threat at the beginning of a Sunday coalition meeting, saying, “we are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us, even if this means a (military) conflict. Better now than later. We do not want escalation but we are ready for any scenario.”
The premier also asserted that Israel maintained “full freedom of action to defend itself” and “explained” that in recent months, the IRGC have “transferred advanced weaponry to Syria in order to attack us both on the battlefield and on the home front, including weaponized UAVs, ground-to-ground missiles and Iranian anti-aircraft batteries that would threaten air force jets,” the prime minister said.
For now, neither Syria nor Iran have attacked Israel despite the avalanche of pre-retaliatory rhetoric.