Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi AFP/File

Iran’s Foreign Minister says that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was unimpressed by recent alleged Israeli airstrikes in Damascus and plans to retaliate the next time such a strike takes place.

Speaking to the German weekly Der Spiegel, Ali Akbar Salehi said Assad “was unimpressed by the military strike. The man I met with is extremely determined and sticking to his course. I had the same impression six months ago, but this time the president seemed even more resolute. Those who believe that Bashar Assad is becoming fickle or that his government is collapsing are suffering from an illusion. The president is pleased with the progress his military is making. He says that his military leaders have the upper hand.”

Salehi rejected reports that the rebels appear to be advancing on Assad, saying, “I don't believe that Assad is portraying the situation unrealistically. When the conflict began two years ago, many said that his government couldn't last long. And now? He's still there. Don't underestimate Bashar Assad.”

He insisted that Assad’s failing to respond to recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria “isn't a sign of weakness. The president responded levelheadedly. The next time Syria will strike back, he told me.”

“The president said that his people are literally urging him to defend himself, fiercely and immediately. The situation will escalate if the other side doesn't hold back and continues to bomb the Syrians' military and research facilities,” added Salehi, rejecting the argument that the Israeli airstrikes targeted weapons transports bound for the Lebanese terror group Hizbullah.

“You can claim everything is a Hizbullah facility in an attempt to justify intervening in Syria's internal affairs,” he said, adding Hizbullah does not need any Iranian weapons that are transported through Syria.

“Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said recently that he is very well supplied and has no need (for weapons),” Salehi told Der Spiegel. “Independent from that, Hizbullah is engaged in a resistance that we support. And the Syrians have little need for our help. President Assad has a large army with hundreds of thousands of men under arms. Over the decades, his government has armed itself against its ruthless enemy, Israel, and he doesn't need a few guns from here or there.”

The Israeli attacks in Syria, claimed Salehi, were “a coordinated campaign between the rebels, who are losing ground, and the Zionist regime. The Israelis came to the aid of the rebels by attacking the Syrian army. It wasn't about their positions or Hizbullah arms depots. I received reports that a rebel commander even publicly expressed his gratitude for the Israeli support.”

He added, “There will be serious consequences if Israel doesn't exercise restraint. You can burn down an entire forest with a single match. However, an expansion of the conflict would be extremely dangerous for the Zionists, which is why they'll think carefully about what they do.”

Syria’s Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, warned Israel this week that his country had a right to launch an operation against the Jewish State from the Golan Heights.

Al-Zoubi said that Israel committed an aggression against Syria recently by raiding military sites near Damascus. With these acts, he said, Israel violated international commitments.

"Accordingly, Syria has the right at this time and at any other time to deal with the Golan issue in the way the owner has the right to deal with his property, because the Golan is and has always been a Syrian Arab land," he said.

"Israel must understand that it can't take a promenade in the Syrian sky because the Syrian land and sky are not a promenade for anyone," he added.

The Iranian government has in the past confirmed sending troops to support Assad in his battle against rebels.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of the experienced officers to ensure that the Assad regime survives the threat to its survival.

Iran has charged that Western media is creating a hype against Syria as a tactic aimed at diverting attention from “Israel’s crimes.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of the Shavuot holiday in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

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