WASHINGTON (JTA) — Syria’s government told Iran that it would not join the Islamic Republic or its proxy Hezbollah in a war with Israel, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.
The Dec. 22, 2009 cable, among thousands published by WikiLeaks in recent weeks, covers the visit at the time to Syria of four high-level Iranian officials and the signing of a defense memorandum of understanding, ostensibly a show of solidarity as the West closed ranks to isolate Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.
"Syria reportedly resisted Iranian entreaties to commit to joining Iran if fighting broke out between Iran and Israel or Hezbollah and Israel," said the cable, signed off by Chuck Hunter, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Syria, and quoting a redacted source. "XXXXXXXXXXXX said Iranian officials were in Syria ‘to round up allies’ in anticipation of an Israeli military strike. ‘It (an Israeli strike on Iran) is not a matter of if, but when,’ XXXXXXXXXXXX said, reporting what Syrian officials had heard from their Iranian counterparts.
"The Syrian response, he continued, was to tell the Iranians not to look to Syria, Hezbollah or Hamas to ‘fight this battle.’ ‘We told them Iran is strong enough on its own to develop a nuclear program and to fight Israel,’ he said, adding, ‘we’re too weak.’ The Iranians know Syria has condemned Israeli threats and would denounce Israeli military operations against Iran. ‘But they were displeased with [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad’s response. They needed to hear the truth,’ XXXXXXXXXXXX said."
The cable notes signs and reports that the Syrians were not eager to receive their guests.
One of the most important visitors, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ghassem Soleimani, was out of sight, the cable said, and the government timed visits from French and Turkish dignitaries during the eight-day period the Iranians visited.
In a news conference, according to the cable, the presidential spokeswoman discussed the other visits but barely touched on the Iranians.