Israel has not been urging the United States to intervene militarily in Syria, despite reports of the use of chemical weapons, according to Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations.
“We never asked, nor did we encourage, the United States to take military action in Syria,” Steinitz said at a conference in New York sponsored by The Jerusalem Post. “And we are not making any comparison or linkage with Iran, which is a completely different matter.”
Last week, chief of Israeli military intelligence research, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, said he had evidence that Assad’s forces had repeatedly used chemical weapons in the past month.
Some Israeli officials and analysts suggested that Assad is testing President Barack Obama, to see if crossing Obama’s stated red line on chemical weapons would precipitate an intervention, or if it was a bluff, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Not all expert Israeli observers were in agreement about Syria.
Meir Dagan, a former head of Mossad, for example, said at the conference that he doubted that chemical weapons used in Syria, which he described as limited, had been authorized by Assad. Therefore, he said, he understood American caution about intervening.
Steinitz argued that, for all the seriousness of the Syrian crisis, it bears no comparison to Iran.
“It is problem No. 1 of our generation,” he said of Iran’s nuclear program, comparing it, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has often done, to the rise of Hitlerism.