Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad tried defending himself in an interview this weekend with French newspaper Le Figaro, picked up and translated by Buzzfeed’s Miriam Elder, by claiming to be fighting the same war as the US and the West. His opposition is almost entirely comprised of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, Assad told Le Figaro, as high as 80-90%. And he has only one strategy in dealing with AQ terrorists:
“We are fighting terrorists,” he said. “80-90% of those we are fighting belong to al-Qaeda. They are not interested in reform or in politics. The only way to deal with them is to annihilate them.”
Assad also hinted that Jordan has heeded his advice to stay out of the conflict because Amman came to the same conclusion:
He also said he had warned his regional neighbors, from Jordan to Turkey, from getting involved: “If we fail to beat terrorism in our country, it will naturally spread to other countries.” He implied that Jordan had been receptive to his warnings. “As for [Turkish Prime Minister Recep] Erdogan, I don’t think he has the least idea of what he is doing.”
Intervention by the West against his army would touch off a regional war, Assad warned, in part because it will provide momentum for terrorist networks:
Assad issued a stark warning that intervention in Syria could prompt a region-wide conflict. “The Middle East is a powder keg, and today the flame is coming very near,” he said. “We cannot talk merely about the Syrian response, but about what might take place after the first strike. But nobody knows what will happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of regional war.”
Assad then refused to say whether an American strike would provoke a Syrian attack on Israel, or perhaps an Iranian strike, in retaliation. Israel provided an answer to that question of its own this morning, in partnership with the US:
Israel and the United States test-fired an “experimental” missile Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean Sea, the Israel Defense Ministry said.
Russia announced that its early warning system had detected the launch of two missiles in the sea, and amid region-wide jitters over U.S. talk of possible military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“The Ministry of Defense together with the American Agency for Missile Defense carried out the successful test of the experimental target missile ‘Anchor,'” the Israeli ministry said on its Facebook page.
The launch came from an Israeli Air Force base in a central part of the country and reviewed the “improved ability” of the “Anchor,” the ministry said.
As Jeff Dunetz notes, this is less of a test than a warning:
A test at this time may be less of a “test” and more of a warning.
Sometimes it isn’t the build up to war which increases tensions it its the perceived buildup. Iran which has not slowed down its nuclear weapons program despite the election of what the western media calls a “moderate” president, believes that Israel is close to stiking its nuclear facilities. At least that is what is being reported in Lebanese newspaper Al Jumhuriya.
I doubt Israel is readying a war against Iran. Israel and the US are, however, reminding everyone in the region that Israel can launch attacks against any point in the region, if forced into one.