Share This Page

Assad warns Israel, 'sure about victory'

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad boasted in an interview broadcast on Thursday that he is “confident in victory,” threatened to retaliate for any Israeli airstrike on his territory and suggested that Syria may have received the first shipment of advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles.

Assad told the Lebanese Al-Manar, a pro-Hezbollah television station, that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts, but he was vague on whether this included advanced S-300 air defense systems.

Israel, which has carried out three airstrikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group, has warned it would regard the Russian missiles as a serious threat to its security.

But Assad said he expected the Kremlin to fulfill the order.

“All our agreements with Russia will be implemented, and parts of them have already been implemented,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Al-Manar had sent text messages to reporters with what it said was an excerpt from the interview.

The station quoted Assad as saying Syria had received a first shipment of such missiles, causing a flurry of headlines around the world.

Analysts told The Guardian newspaper in Britain that it was possible some elements of the S-300 system – launchers perhaps – had arrived but doubted the system was operational.

Israeli officials told McClatchy Newspapers that they had no indications that the anti-aircraft system had reached Syria and that even if the Kremlin were to speed delivery, it would take weeks.

“This isn't something that it airlifted in overnight. This is something that moves slowly, over international waters, until it reaches a Syrian port,” one Israeli defense official said under the condition of anonymity. “This is a sophisticated system that you can't sneak around or hide.”

Russia's S-300 missiles are considered a game-changer. Not only can the surface-to-air missile system target aircraft, it can engage ballistic missiles.

Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli adviser, told The Guardian, “If we do something soon after the transfer, we might have business not only with Syria but with the Russians. This is a real hot potato.”

This month, Israel struck near Damascus, targeting suspected shipments of advanced weapons purportedly intended for Hezbollah. Syria did not respond at the time.

Assad said he informed other countries that Syria would respond next time. “If we are going to retaliate against Israel, this retaliation should be a strategic response.”

He also said there was “popular pressure” to open a military front against Israel in the Golan Heights.

The Syrian leader, who appeared animated and gestured frequently in the TV interview, said he has been confident from the start of the conflict that he would be able to defeat his opponents.

“Had we not had this confidence, we wouldn't have been able to fight in this battle for two years, facing an international attack,” he said. Assad, however, discounted the importance of Hezbollah's presence in Syria, saying the number of fighters the Lebanese group sent was a “drop in the ocean.”

“We are confident and sure about victory, and I confirm that Syria will stay as it was,” he said.

He took a swipe at Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey who have been meeting to sort out whether to add members to their coalition and to decide on new leaders and a government-in-exile. The Supreme Military Council, which is backed by countries supporting the Syrian opposition with weapons and non-lethal aid, denounced the inability of the Syrian Opposition Coalition to reach a decision and demanded that it be given 50 percent of the seats in a new coalition.

“Whom do they represent?” Assad asked.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.