The government’s self-imposed verbal restraint on Syria started to unravel Thursday, with Likud Ministers Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom both warning about implications the Russian-brokered Syrian deal might have on Iran.
“Iran understands today that there is nothing backing up all the threats against it,” Regional Cooperation Minister Shalom said. “If it is impossible to do anything against little Syria, then certainly not against big Iran.”
Shalom said that just two days ago, President Hassan Rouhani said he would not give up on even the smallest part of the Iranian nuclear program.
“Israel is not involved in the Syrian civil war,” Shalom said “But Israel also says that the lack of a decision regarding Syria is a decision, and in our region it will have a great deal of significance.”
Steinitz, the intelligence minister, echoed that theme, saying in an Army Radio interview that the situation in Syria was resonating in Iran.
If a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm” is seen in Syria and if there will be either an “adequate response” to President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons or the complete dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, “that could also be an important step in the Iranian direction that broadcasts international determination that will resonate with the Iranians,” he said.
He warned that inaction in Syria would reverberate very negatively in Iran, and “they could feel very good about continuing to develop their nuclear program.”
Iran is “watching the actions of the US and the UN Security Council,” Steinitz said. Another lesson from the Syrian situation that the world must internalize, he explained, was that if radical countries like Iran or Syria obtain weapons of mass destruction, “one day they may not only threaten to use them, but actually do so.”
He said that if the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons will be implemented, “that is something good that the whole world would welcome.” He added, however, that Israel was not very confident that it will indeed materialize.
These warnings came as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been absorbed in the Syrian issue for the last two weeks, began returning to a bit more of a normal routine.
While Netanyahu is still convening ongoing security briefings, one official said, there was “no doubt that the prospect of an American strike being moved back for the time being means that now the work is more routine.”