Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told foreign journalists at a briefing Monday he believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may just prevail in the civil war raging across Israel’s northern border.
Assad’s soldiers, backed by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard forces and the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist guerrilla fighters, last week recaptured Qusair from the rebels.
They are now preparing to besiege the northern commercial hub city of Aleppo, currently under the control of Islamist opposition forces.
Most other Israeli government officials quickly told reporters they did not agree with Steinitz’s assessment. But the minister for international affairs, strategy and intelligence was quoted by Turkey’s Today’s Zaman newspaper as saying, "I always thought that it might be the case that at the end of the day Assad, with a very strong Iranian and Hizbullah backing, might gain the upper hand. And I think that this is possible and I thought that this is possible already a long time ago."
Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was quick to emphasize that Steinitz was expressing his own personal views and not those of the Israeli government, which does not have a formal position on Assad’s prospects.
An Israeli diplomat who asked not to be named also said, "This is Steinitz’s personal informed – or rather, misinformed – position."
Nearly 100,000 Syrians have died in the savage civil war that has lasted more than two years and has left millions of the country’s citizens homeless. The opposition forces that began with a peaceful movement eventually transformed into a Free Syrian Army, which eventually morphed into a fractured group of secular and Islamist factions.