Yuval Steinitz 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people is a stark reminder of just how dangerous non-conventional weapons are in the hands of totalitarian regimes, International Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday.“What happened in Syria should remind us how dangerous it would be for Iran to be able to complete its military nuclear project and produce atomic bombs,” Steinitz said, picking up on a theme first publicly voiced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the day before.
Steinitz, at a press conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Press Club, said that just as the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people, the Iranians were capable of using nuclear weapons because, like the Syrians, they have “no moral inhibitions.”
“Look what is taking place when a terrible dictator gets only chemical weapons,” he said, adding that letting another totalitarian regime like Iran – which also has “no barriers or moral inhibitions” – get nuclear weapons would be a “game changer” and create a “new, dangerous world.” Steinitz said it was “crystal clear” that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons five days ago in an attack that killed hundreds of people.
He said that while this was not the first time Assad has used chemical weapons – stating that he has used them “two or three times” during the course of the current civil war against rebel troops – this was the first time he has used them on a mass scale and against civilians.
This was also the first massive use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein used them two decades ago, Steinitz said.
He said that while the world was focusing on Syria, it should not ignore that Iran is the only country in the world that not only supports Damascus with arms and money, but also participates in the fighting on the ground.
“There are many Iranian military advisors in Syria, and there are also Iranian proxy Hezbollah troops getting orders from Iran to enter Syria,” he said, putting the number of Hezbollah troops fighting alongside Assad at “several thousand.”
Steinitz said that Iran should not be able to escape culpability for the use of chemical arms in Syria, even though its advisors may not have been the ones to open up the chemical canisters.
They cannot fully support and actively help Assad in the war, and then say they have no responsibility for his use of chemical weapons, Steinitz said.
While calling on the world to stop Assad, Steinitz said Israel would not interfere in the turmoil roiling the Arab world.
“We are not going to interfere in the turmoil and internal conflicts around us,” he said. “We want to stay out of the conflicts in the Arab world and in the Arab countries.
I think this is a very reasonable and responsible policy.”
Asked, however, if Jerusalem was not concerned about Syrian retaliation against Israel in case of an American attack, Steinitz said, “I think it will be insane for somebody to try to provoke Israel, but of course we are prepared for any scenario.”
With its stated policy of non-involvement, Steinitz said that Israel has made clear that it would protect itself if it comes under attack, and do so “decisively.
“We say we have two red lines,” Steinitz said. “The delivery of WMD’s – either chemical weapons or strategic weapons – to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, and the other red line is if someone attacks Israel or threatens its citizens.”
Steinitz dismissed the UN team that is now investigating the chemical attack in Syria as a “joke,” likening it to a police investigation of a murder where the investigators can only go to the scene of the crime five days later, and then only investigate what type of weapon was used, not who was responsible.
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