What’s bad for Syrian President Bashar Assad is bad for Israel, and vice versa, the dictator’s cousin told The New York Times Tuesday.
Rami Makhlouf, a wealthy tycoon, warned that instability resulting from the growing and stubborn protest movement against Assad could have severe repercussions for Israel. Many analysts have said that toppling Assad would weaken the Iranian regime and possibly reduce the nuclear threat on Israel from Tehran, but the Times interview did not mention Syria's close connections with the Islamic Republic.
“If there is no stability here, there’s no way there will be stability in Israel,” he told the newspaper in an interview conducted in his offices in Damascus. Makhlouf explained that he did not necessarily mean there would be war with Israel, but “nobody can guarantee what will happen after, G-d forbid, anything happens to this regime.”
He also contradicted himself, saying that a new government led by Muslim radicals could result in a civil war and possibly a conflict beyond its borders. Makhlouf did not mention Lebanon either, where the Damascus-Hizbullah alliance is the dominant political and military force.
“We won’t accept it,” he said. “People will fight against them. Do you know what this means? It means catastrophe. And we have a lot of fighters.”
His comments came as human rights groups report that Assad’s police and army have murdered more than 700 demonstrators, including women and children, and have arrested more than 10,000 people suspected of being involved in the protest movement.
Syria’s standing in the international community is being severely challenged, as demonstrated by Kuwait’s willingness to be the Asian candidate for the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Syria was the only nominee and a shoo-in until a media blackout did not prevent films and substantiated reports of widespread and brutal methods, including torture, against demonstrators from reaching the world.
Makhlouf warned, “We will not go out, leave on our boat, go gambling, you know. We will sit here. We call it a fight until the end. They should know when we suffer, we will not suffer alone.”
Assad’s cousin is considered part and parcel of what dissidents say is a thoroughly corrupt regime, and the United States, which designates Syria as a country supporting terror, slapped sanctions on him three years ago.