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Ahmadinejad: Syria strike result of Zionist weakness
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
05/02/2013
Iranian president voices aspirations to visit Gaza, Jerusalem; ex-Intelligence chief says diplomatic solution better than military.
 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview on Monday that the alleged Israeli attack in Syria is the result of Zionist “weakness.”

In an interview with Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen, Ahmadinejad voiced his aspirations to visit the Gaza Strip and pray in Jerusalem, adding that there is no separation between Palestinian factions for Iran, and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “always welcome” in Tehran.

The Iranian president stated that Iran is always ready to assist the Palestinian people.

He also reiterated his country’s position on the Syria crisis, stressing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s fate must be in the hands of the Syrian people.

The president of the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran will court Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim cleric at al-Azhar university on Tuesday in a historic trip pointing to Tehran’s efforts to improve ties with an Arab state now run by an Islamist.

Ahmadinejad will be the first Iranian head of state to visit Egypt since the 1979 Iranian revolution. He is due to attend a two-day Islamic summit in Cairo that begins on Wednesday.

Israeli threats to strike Iran’s nuclear program and send shock waves throughout the world are “unhelpful,” and Jerusalem should lower its profile on the issue, director of the Institute for National Security Studies, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, said Monday.

Yadlin, a former Military Intelligence chief, spoke at the unveiling of the INSS’s strategic assessment for 2012-2013.

Yadlin stressed that a nucleararmed Iran is more dangerous than an attack on the Islamic Republic.

He called on the government to “return to the international community” and to better coordinate its position with the White House over Iran. An understanding should be reached over the “required steps to stop Iran, and who will take them,” Yadlin said. “Israel does not need to object to a diplomatic solution, if it stops the [nuclear] clock.”

The key question, Yadlin argued, was how long it will take Iran to reach a nuclear breakout phase from the time it would violate a diplomatic agreement. If a couple of a years separate Iran from nuclear breakout, that would be a better solution than a military attack, he said.

Iran is currently four to six months away from nuclear breakout stage, if an order is given to reach that phase now, Yadlin said.

He envisaged a diplomatic solution that would allow Iran to possess 1,200 centrifuges.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday he saw US Vice-President Joe Biden's offer this weekend of bilateral dialogue between their two countries as a sign of a change in approach to Iran by the US administration.

“As I have said yesterday, I am optimistic.

I feel this new administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous traditional approach vis-a-vis my country,” Salehi told the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but the West suspects it is intended to give Iran the capability to build a nuclear bomb.

Salehi, who attended the Munich Security Conference at the weekend where Biden made the offer, said in Berlin that it was still very difficult for Tehran and Washington to trust each other.

“How do we trust again this new gesture?” he said.

Salehi said he hoped Barack Obama would keep what he said was a promise by the US president to “walk away from wars... and approaches that bring destruction, killings, bloodshed.”

He did not elaborate.

Yadlin turned his attention to the Palestinians, saying Jerusalem should also better coordinate its position with Washington over the Palestinian issue, adding that it was time for Israel to put forward a new diplomatic initiative.

Yadlin proposed a “fair offer, along the Clinton parameters, or the offer made by the Israeli government in 2008. We estimate that the Palestinians will reject our offer,” Yadlin said.

“If that happens, Israel will be able to shape its own borders,” he added, referring to a unilateral step, but one which is based on lessons learned from errors committed in the 2005 Gaza disengagement.

That means maintaining an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, to cut off weapons transfer points, unlike the abandonment of the Gaza-Egypt border, which allowed Hamas and Islamic Jihad to import large quantities of rockets after Israel left the strip.

“We are facing an American administration that is maintaining a very good security-intelligence dialogue with us,” Yadlin said. “Better than ever before,” he added.

Israel should also seek to forge relationships with new Sunni powers, and work with them to isolate “the big enemy, which is Iran,” Yadlin said.

Israel’s deterrence is strong, and “the IDF is the strongest military in the Middle East,” he added.

Syria will be busy with rebuilding itself in the coming years, he assessed. The fact that Syria – a major component of the Iranian-led regional axis – has been badly damaged has resulted in a benefit for Israel’s strategic standing, Yadlin said.

“All of this is conditioned on renewing the diplomatic process with the Palestinians,” he stressed.

Yadlin said Israel should seek to contain small incidents along the borders, and “not let small organizations drag us into war.”

“If there will be a war-type development in 2013... it will be in our hands,” Yadlin said. He called on the government to be “more active” in pursuing these goals.

Turning his attention to the reported air strikes in Syria, Yadlin said that if Syria admitted it had attempted to transfer SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah, it would be admitting to breaking a pledge made to Russia to refrain from such proliferation.

Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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