Syrian FM Walid Mualem threatens to start “countdown to war” with Israel failing progress on peace track

debkafile cites Mualem’s words at a joint news conference in Damascus with Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Steore Monday, Nov. 6, as an explicit threat of war to be launched against Israel at a time of Syria’s choosing.
The Syrian minister welcomed a debate going on in Israel about whether to resume negotiations with Damascus on the Golan Heights, which Syria lost to Israel in the Six-Day War. He went on to say: “We now have a window of opportunity of several months. If there is no progress, the countdown will begin for a new Syrian-Israeli war.”
On Nov. 3, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 276 revealed that on Oct. 30 British PM Tony Blair had sent his senior political adviser Nigel Sheinwald (picture) on a mission to Damascus, hoping to turn the coming British exit from Iraqi towns round as leverage for a comeback to the Arab world and make up for his failed Iraq policy. One of the items in the British official’s briefcase for his meeting with president Bashar Asad and Mualem was a secret message from Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert: an offer to start peace talks. It was posted through Blair. The Syrian president sent a return message to the British prime minister: Tell Olmert I’m ready to talk.
This move connected with a broader deal: Damascus would break away from its pact with Tehran in return for normal relations with the West. Israel-Syrian talks would kick off this process.
Both parties agreed that the Sheinwald mission and the business they discussed would be kept secret.
No sooner had the British emissary flown out of Damascus, when the Syrians leaked word of his visit together with the Syrian president’s rejection of Olmert’s offer to talk, barring a prior Israeli commitment to cede the Golan.
This was not what the Syrian president had told his British vistor. When Sheinwald arrived in London, he found out that Asad had been stringing him along before killing the Blair initiative stone cold.
All along the Syrian ruler had kept faith with Tehran. He had rolled out his usual line of peacespeak, which is routinely welcomed by European nations and others, to sugar-coat his scheme for a war against Israel with full Iranian military and intelligence backing.
Walid Mualem was more frank. “If Israel is thinking of launching a war next year this is not the way,” he said. He was evidently responding to the Haaretz report of Nov. 11 which quoted the IDF General Staff as expecting a Syrian-Hizballah war to be launched in the summer of 2007.
debkafile‘s military sources note that if this reflects their thinking, Israel’s army chiefs are over-optimistic. But many Israeli generals, including the new OC Northern Command, Maj-Gen.Gaby Eisenkott, judge from Syrian and Iranian military preparations that major hostilities could erupt a lot earlier and will try and catch Israel unready.

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