Syria would end its alliance with Iran in exchange for peace with Israel and
greater US involvement in the process, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of
Military Intelligence’s Research Directorate, told a top American official last
year, according to a US diplomatic cable published on Monday by
The cable documented a meeting between Baidatz and other top
Israeli officials with US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs Ambassador Alexander Vershbow in November 2009.
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the meeting, Baidatz said that according to Israeli intelligence assessments, if
Syria were able to achieve peace with “security” and obtain greater US
involvement, it would be willing to pull away from Iran’s
According to the US cable, Baidatz said that if Syrian President
Bashar Assad were forced to choose between peace with Israel and Iran and his “negative assets” – Hamas and Hizbullah – he would
choose peace. Such a peace, Baidatz said, would be detrimental for Hizbullah,
which relies heavily on Syrian support.
“It would be a gradual process
before Hizbullah could completely wean itself from the Syrian support apparatus
and that, ultimately, both Hizbullah’s and Iran’s flexibility would be
significantly reduced,” Baidatz said, according to the cable.
cable from 2009, Baidatz briefed Vershbow on Iran’s nuclear program and said the
Islamic Republic was one year away from obtaining a nuclear weapon and
two-and-a-half years away from assembling a nuclear arsenal of three weapons. By
2012, Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within
The cable, which was approved by Vershbow, included a comment
next to Baidatz’s remarks: “It is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or
are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United
Turning to Hizbullah, the Israeli officials warned Vershbow that
the Shi’ite guerrilla group was working hand-in-hand with the Lebanese Armed
“The level of cooperation far exceeds what many assume is simply
the day-to-day problem of corruption within the ranks,” the cable summarized the
Israeli side as saying.
“On the contrary, Israel believes that
LAF/Hizbullah cooperation is a matter of national policy – any information
shared with the United Nations Interim Force-Lebanon (UNIFIL) goes directly to
Hizbullah by way of the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
The meeting took place in
the days before Syria transferred a cache of M600 long-range and accurate
surface- to-surface missiles to Hizbullah.
Baidatz told Vershbow that
Israel knew about the missile cache in Syria and believed that it was destined
“Under such a scenario, the looming question for Israeli
policy-makers then becomes: ‘To strike or not to strike?’” Baidatz was
paraphrased as saying.
In the end, Israel did not attack the arms convoys
to Lebanon, and Hizbullah is believed today to have hundreds of M600s, which
have a range of 250 km. and can carry a half-ton warhead.
Assad was quoted on Monday as saying that Syria did not have a partner for peace
in Israel’s “extremist” current government.
“We are prepared for peace
and we have a clear plan that can lead us there,” Assad was quoted as saying in
an interview with the German daily Bild. “But we need a partner and we don’t
have one so far.
“The Israeli people elected an extremist government that
will not bring about peace,” he said, according to the report. “Will the Israeli
people change this situation? We don’t know.”
He also came to Iran’s
defense, rejecting allegations that it was using its civilian nuclear program as
a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
“From everything we know, Iran is
not striving for nuclear weapons,” Assad was quoted as saying. “So this can only
be about checking exactly what Iran is doing. The Iranians are prepared to
accept that. That is how one has to view the problem.”
AP contributed to