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Without Iran, Syria Would Have Been Overtaken By Jihadists – Analyst

© REUTERS / Ali HashishoMembers of the Syrian police hold their weapons as they sit on a back of a truck at the city of Douma, Damascus, Syria April 16, 2018
Members of the Syrian police hold their weapons as they sit on a back of a truck at the city of Douma, Damascus, Syria April 16, 2018 - Sputnik International
An Israeli Minister suggested that Tel Aviv could kill Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unless his government prevents Iranian forces from launching attacks against Israel from Syrian territory. To find out how likely it is that these words could become reality, Sputnik spoke to Middle East analyst Catherine Shakdam.

Sputnik: So Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, has said warned that, to quote him directly, "if Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that it would be the end of him, the end of his regime." That’s a pretty serious threat. What do you make of it, and how likely is it that Israel would act on this do you think?

Catherine Shakdam: I think that the first thing we need to understand is that Israel here is speaking to Washington and really calling on Washington to come as a white knight and continue to step up its aggressive stance toward Iran, in the hope that either something would happen in terms of military intervention, or maybe more sanctions towards Iran, or at least to make sure there is no warming up in diplomatic ties between the West and Iran, that’s for sure.

Israel views, and continues to view upon Iran as an existential threat. What I find very interesting, in relation to Syria, is that suddenly, if you recall, intervention in Syria had everything to do with terrorism, and countering Daesh, and now suddenly its becoming something else, which I find quite interesting. We need to understand that if it was not for Iran’s intervention, then Syria would be in a very different situation today in that Daesh would have, more than likely, taken over.

So for Israel to come out and slap Iran in the face and deny everything good that Iran has done, because this is essentially what it is doing, is a little bit hypocritical. Notwithstanding as well that Iran intervened upon Syria’s invitation, so there is no violation of international law. I don’t recall Israel having the right to tell Syria what to do because that would be an act of war and a violation of its own sovereignty.

So again, we are in a position where Israel is acting in an exceptional state and I don’t think that’s its place. It could make comments, and it could call for maybe advice upon policy that it would like to see, but it cannot tell a country what to do, and it certain can’t decide the future of a nation and decide to declare war should this future not pan out to be what it wants.

Sputnik: There is concern that if President Trump ditches the Iran nuclear deal – about which he’ll make an announcement later on today – then it could exacerbate the already turbulent geopolitical situation in Syria, and potentially increase the likelihood of hostilities between Israel and Iran. Do you think that’s likely, and if so, how do you see it happening?

Catherine Shakdam: It is possible that because of those developments that we could see more wars by proxy coming out, or suddenly being declared. But I think we need to stay calm because there’s been a lot of type around this nuclear deal. Of course, it will create tensions should it be scrapped, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to lead to war immediately. I don’t think that Iran wants a war, I don’t think Iran has ever overreacted or reacted at all when it comes to Washington’s tantrums.

I think we need to keep a clear head and understand that even though president Trump might want to affect such a reality in the Middle East, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work out just the way he thinks because there are other actors at play – there is Russia, and there is China.

We shouldn’t just dismiss, or imagine that the US in charge of anything and everything in the Middle East or even in the world. It’s not just up to Washington what’s going to happen so I think we need to keep calm a little bit. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as everybody makes it out to be.

Sputnik: Over the weekend, Tel Aviv said that it had acquired intelligence that Iran is preparing for a salvo of missile attacks on Israeli bases from within Syrian territory, but some have argued that this simply belies Israel’s search for a pretext for war – what do you make of that?

Catherine Shakdam: To be honest with you I think its another case of the cartoon at the UN where Tel Aviv is again trying to create a narrative of war and saying that Iran is very very dangerous and that it wants its annihilation. It’s not the case.

It was never the case. If it had been the case I think we’d have had war with Israel a long time ago. Iran doesn’t war with anybody. But that being said, it will defend its borders. But it never acted as a belligerent power. It never declared war on anybody in the course of 100, if not 300 years, so why would it be any different now?

As for Israel, I don’t think they have the same track record. So I think again we need to look at facts here and stop thinking that Iran wants Israel to be gone; it’s not true. It’s never been true.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Catherine Shakdam and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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