Israel had nothing to fear from Bashar al-Assad, and may have even had an ally in him, a Syrian businessman said in an interview Thursday. Speaking to Al-Arabiya television, Fares Tlass, who is well-connected with top Syrian officials, said that Assad's threats against Israel were all bark and no bite, and that both countries had signed numerous secret agreements on a number of issues. Among those deals was one to deliver Syrian crude oil to Israel.
Tlass is the brother of Manaf Tlass, a former high-ranking Syrian official who was very close to Assad, and who fled the country several months ago. He is also the son of former Defense Secretary Mustafa Tlass. Tlass, who has since aligned himself with the rebels against the Assad government, said he would begin revealing the full range of cooperation between Syria and Israel is his Al-Arabiya interview, which will be broadcast in full on Friday.
Tlasss also said that Assad was responsible for the death of former Syrian Prime Minister Mahmoud Zouabi, whom he claims was killed for his plans by Assad's people. Officially, Zouabi committed suicide in 2000, the year Assad became head of Syria.
Tlass' comments were at odds with Assad's declaration to the Sunday Times last weekend that Syria would “respond to Israeli attacks,” if Israel decided to take action to prevent Syrian chemical weapons from ending up in the hands of terror groups. "We retaliated in our own way, and only the Israelis know what we mean. Retaliation does not mean missile for missile or bullet for bullet. Our own way does not have to be announced," he said.