Israel has targeted dozens of Iranian and Hezbollah assets in Syria during the seven-year civil war there but has intentionally refrained from any action that could seriously undermine Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, including targeting him directly, Saudi media reported on Sunday.
Saudi daily Elaph quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying that the government had rejected recommendations by Military Intelligence to topple the Syrian regime, potentially by assassinating Assad, because it preferred dealing with a known adversary – someone it could use back channels to communicate with if need be.
The report further said that then-Director of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who is slated to assume the position of IDF chief of staff in mid-January, was in favor of toppling Assad’s regime over its support of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group.
According to the report, the “prolong conflict in Syria saw Israel often hold negotiations with the regime in Damascus in order to reach an agreement in Syria.”
The Israeli official was also quoted as confirming that the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet “held extensive discussions on the situation in Syria and decided that Israel would not allow an Iranian military presence there. Since then, Israel has invested considerable efforts in preventing Iran and Hezbollah from establishing themselves in Syria, while making sure it [Israel] inflicts minimal damage to the Damascus regime.”
The senior Israeli official refused to comment on the decision by some Arab states, such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, to reopen their embassies in Damascus, saying only that the rapprochement between Arab states and Syria was ”less dangerous for Israel because these Arab states also want to see Iran out of Syria.”
According to the report, the Israeli official said he believes that “Assad’s regime as we know it will come to an end,” adding that Israel and Russia both see Iranian presence in the war-torn country as ”highly problematic.”
Moscow seeks to be the only dominant force in the region, the Israeli source was quoted as saying.