Iranian FM Plays Down Prospects of War

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the Tehran Security Conference in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran and Israel traded blame on Sunday for an unprecedented, weeks-long surge in hostilities between their forces over Syria but played down prospects of a spillover into war.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a U.S. broadcast interview that further Israeli sorties in Syria would have “consequences.” But he deemed major escalation as unlikely.

“I do not believe that we are headed towards regional war but I do believe that unfortunately, Israel has continued its violations with international law, hoping to be able to do it with impunity because of the U.S. support and trying to find smokescreens to hide behind,” Zarif told CBS News.

“The easiest answer would be to stop — to stop these acts of aggression, to stop these incursions.”

Later on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said there’s a “huge gap” between Zarif’s “moderate” words and Iranian actions.

“This is the foreign minister of a country that sends armed drones into Israel and fires missiles at Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said.

“I also heard his moderate words. There is a huge gap between his words and the actions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which advances an army against Israel with the stated goal of destroying the State of Israel,” Netanyahu says.

“I’m not impressed by the words,” he added.

Yisrael Katz, the Israeli intelligence minister, suggested world powers might intervene to curb Iranian activity in Syria.

Israel is “not interested” in escalation, Katz told Ynet. But Israeli power-projection, he said, “can challenge the Iranians, can clarify to the Russians, who seek stability, that it is worth it for them to apply their influence, and the same goes for the United States, for France and all the others.”