Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak had strong words for Iran and its allies at the Munich Security Conference Sunday, Feb. 3, while, in Damascus, Iran’s National Security Director Saeed Jalili conferred urgently with Syrian President Bashar Assad. They discussed activating the secret mutual defense pact binding Iran, Syria, Hizballlah and Hamas in reprisal for the Israeli air strike which reportedly hit a military complex near Damascus last Wednesday.
Without directly confirming the Israel attack on the Jamraya military compound, defense minister Barak said, “…what happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it… and we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
Addressing top world diplomats and defense officials, Barak when on to say: "Hizballah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left.” Assad’s fall is “coming imminently” and that “will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hizbollah. I think that they will pay the price," he said.
In Tehran, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned Israel Sunday of the consequences of its alleged strike. "The world is witnessing a vengeance carried out by the West, particularly the US, and some backward elements in the region against resistance." Larijani called on countries in the region to distance themselves from Israel and said he believed "the Islamic awakening movement in the region would give a proper response to the Zionist regime."
On the face of it, Tehran looks as though it is passing the buck for “a proper response to the Zionist regime” to fellow Muslims and the Arab world.
However, debkafile’s Iranian and intelligence sources believe the Iranians are simply playing for time to decide how to retaliate for Israel’s reported strike on the military complex which Syria shares with its allies. The man to watch is Jalilee who, we can report exclusively, arrived post haste in Damascus Saturday, Feb. 2, to warn Syrian leaders that Tehran is not willing to forego a military response to an attack which destroyed a whole supply of advanced Iranian weapons Tehran sent to Hizballah in the last two years and which were stored at the Jamraya compound.
The Syrian ruler clearly agrees with his Iranian guest. Sunday, he accused Israel of trying to "destabilize" his country. His first remarks on the reported Israeli air strike in Syria on Wednesday came after he met Jalilee. He added that Syria was able to confront "current threats… and aggression."
Iran, Syria and Hizballah must now decide on the nature of their reprisal, set up the operation and assign forces for its implementation, while taking into account Israel’s options for a counter-response.
Barak’s tough comments in Munich told Tehran that Israel is ready to remove the gloves against Syria and Hizballlah. Iranian leaders heeded his words well while at the same time keeping track of the Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib’s meetings in Munich with US Vice President Joe Biden and, for the first time, with the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Sergey Lavrov and Ali Akbar Salehi.
Salehi spent 45 minutes with the Syrian dissident on the sidelines of the conference addressed by the Israeli defense minister.
Those meetings were taken as suggesting that the Syrian opposition does not expect the Syrian ruler to fall in the short term and has therefore decided there is no option but to start talking to him about a power-sharing format for ending the Syrian conflict. Tehran is already angling for a role in a Syrian peace settlement.
However an Iranian-backed reprisal operation countered by a tough Israel response could upset this promising scenario.