The Syrian leadership in Damascus told a senior Iranian delegation to Damascus
last year that it would not assist Iran in retaliating for an Israeli strike
against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to an American diplomatic cable
published on Wednesday by WikiLeaks.
Written by the US Embassy in
Damascus, the cable, dated December 20, 2009, summed up the visits earlier that
month of Iranian National Security Adviser Saeed Jalili, Vice President and head
of the Environmental Department Mahammed-Javad Mahamadzideh and Defense Minister
Ahmad Ali Vahidi to Damascus.
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The cable cited an unnamed Syrian official
who claimed that in the talks, the Syrians told the Iranians that they would not
participate in an Iranian retaliation to an Israeli strike.
“We told them
Iran is strong enough on its own to develop a nuclear program and to fight
Israel,” the Syrian official was quoted as saying in the cable. “We’re too
According to the cable, Syria resisted Iranian entreaties to
commit to joining Iran if fighting broke out between Iran, Hizbullah and Israel.
The unnamed source told the embassy officials that the Iranian delegation came
to Syria “to round up allies” in anticipation of an Israeli military
“It [an Israeli strike on Iran] is not a matter of if, but when,”
the source was quoted as having heard from the Iranians.
The cable noted
with interest that Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds Force of the
Iranian revolutionary Guards Corps – the force responsible for supporting
Iranian proxies throughout the region – had accompanied the Iranian national
security advisor Jalili on his visit to Damascus.
According to the cable,
Jalili and Suleimani met with Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid Muallem, as well as
unspecified members of Hizbullah.
“Suleimani represents the business end
of the resistance,” the source said. Suleimani is reported to have played a key
role in recent years in arming Hizbullah and Hamas with long-range rockets and
The source went on to tell the embassy officials that the
Syrian military predicted that Israel would fly over Syria on its way to attack
Iran and was conducting surveillance of Syrian radar stations with drones ahead
of such an operation.
“Military officials tell me they have noticed
Israeli drones snooping around our sites,” the source was quoted in the cable,
adding that some Syrian officials saw Israeli reconnaissance as an indication
that Israel might seek to disable anti-air radar stations as part of a plan to
fly bombers over Syrian territory en route to Iran.
“We expect to wake up
one morning soon and learn the Israeli strike took place. Then we expect an
Iranian response,” the source said.