Danny Ayalon, the outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, has been talking to euronews about the situation in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
James Franey met him on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference in the southern German city.
euronews: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, thank you very much for being here with euronews at the Munich (Security) Conference.
Danny Ayalon: Good to be here
euronews: “Thank you very much for your time. Iran and Syria say they’re going to retaliate for your reported strike on a weapons centre in Syria. How do you understand that?”
Danny Ayalon: “Well, I have no knowledge of what they are talking about, but I think the problem that we face in Syria is emanating a lot from support, the massive support that the brutal Assad regime gets from the Iranian Ayatollahs and also from their surrogates in Lebanon, the Hezbollah.”
euronews: “If Iran and Syria do strike back, what would be Israel’s response?”
Danny Ayalon: “Well, of course Israel has the right for self-defence, we have our obligation to defend our population. Unfortunately, we do see that radicalisation in the region is rampant, and what has been coined as the so-called “Arab spring” unfortunately is becoming an “Islamic winter”. And much of it is attributed to the Ayatollahs in Tehran.”
euronews: “On this question of the Iranian nuclear issue, your prime minister has openly talked about perhaps a pre-emptive strike. Do you not think this is counter-productive? That this will in fact push the Iranians closer to an atomic weapon?”
Danny Ayalon: “I don’t think the Iranians need any push. What they have been doing for the last decade and a half is a very elaborate scheme of cheating, evasion and in a way defying the entire international community. And they are relentless in trying to get a nuclear capability for them. The nuclear capability is not just a means in itself, it’s only a way to become the hegemon in the Middle East and much beyond. And here I would like to make a very specific point: there’s no fight between Israel and Iran, the fight is really between Iran and the entire international community.”
euronews: “Why did containment work for the Soviet Union and not for Iran?”
Danny Ayalon: “Simply because for Iran the nuclear capability is not a matter of survival, it’s not a matter of extracting economic means, and with all due respect to Iran they are not a superpower, although they would like to be. I believe that the more analogous situation is with North Korea, but unlike North Korea, which may or may not have a nuclear bomb in the cellar, Iran has global ambitions.
‘So here we’re talking about a regime which is very much dedicated to promote its very extreme ideologies, and for them the nuclear is just the means to continue to undermine and disrupt. Even without the nuclear capabilities the Iranians are threatening the entire region and beyond – whether to block the Strait of Hormuz, whether to disrupt any free flow of oil. With nuclear capabilities not only can they control the oil flow, they can also dictate oil prices. So I think is very categorical, imperative – not just on Israel’s behalf but on everyone’s behalf – not to have Iran nuclear, and I think that they should not underestimate the resolve, determination and capabilities of the international community.”
euronews: “Turning quickly to Syria: do you believe the eventual fall of Assad will be the beginning of the end of that conflict, or the end of the beginning, and that this could be a long drawn-out war as in Lebanon, for example?”
Danny Ayalon: “Very tragic situation in Syria, and on top of the humanitarian disaster in Syria we see the danger of complete disintegration, in Syria being on the verge of becoming a failed state.”
euronews: “Do you think the state can completely break up? That Assad is the state in essence?”
Danny Ayalon: “In essence this is what we see; and also what we see is that the fallback for Assad is not quitting, is not leaving Syria but actually fortifying Alawite positions and creating Alawite enclaves which will continue to be supported by the Hezbollah and by Iran, and this does not bode very well for the future of this country, and also for the stability of the region.”
euronews: “So if the stability of the region is so crucial how should the international community react? Because the current strategy just doesn’t appear to be working. More than 60,000 people are dead over the past 2 years. What does the international community need to do?”
Danny Ayalon: “Well, first of all reach a consensus, and unfortunately we could not get the international community to agree, and with the absence of any policy by the Security Council it is a complete paralysis. And the result of course is an ever-escalating direction and process in Syria. So I think the first thing we should have the P5 (five permanent members) of the Security Council agree on a certain policy, whether it’s a no-fly zone over Syria, or a way to put peace-keeping forces – what could’ve been achieved rather easily a year and a half or a year ago now is almost insurmountable.”
euronews: “So the strategy of “wait-and-see” has failed and we should have some sort of foreign intervention in Syria?”
Danny Ayalon: “It’s not for me to really say, and again, maybe the time has elapsed for any effective intervention. I know that there is a growing debate, especially in Europe, whether to supply the opposition lethal equipment (i.e. arms and munitions) on top of non-lethal. And this is something we have to consider very carefully to make sure that any munitions or weapons will not fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately the opposition of course is not of one block, and we see also Syria becoming a magnet of jihadists and Islamist fanatics – the type that travel from flash-point to flash-point, whether from Chechnya or Afghanistan or Libya. Many of them now concentrate in Syria making things much more complicated.”
euronews: “Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, thank you very much for being with us on euronews. Thank you.”
Danny Ayalon: “Thank you.”