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 WikiLeaks.

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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During 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 orbit.

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.

In the 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 six months.

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 States.”

Turning to Hizbullah, the Israeli officials warned Vershbow that the Shi’ite guerrilla group was working hand-in-hand with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

“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 for Hizbullah.

“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.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the latest Wikileaks

Meanwhile, 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 this report.

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