NEW YORK — Warning of protracted, destabilizing conflict in Syria, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon urged the visiting chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to prevent Iran and its Lebanon-based Hezbollah proxies from prevailing on behalf of embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
In the most publicly direct appeal to date for US support of anti-Assad rebels, Ya’alon told Gen. Martin Dempsey, “It is forbidden to allow the axis of evil — Tehran-Damascus-Beirut — to win this conflict.”
According to a statement released after Ya’alon’s Aug. 13 meeting with the senior-ranking US military officer, the Israeli defense minister said the two countries must be prepared for “a long conflict” within Syria.
Ya’alon flagged Iran as the source of much of the region’s instability, insisting “the Iranian regime ... is involved in every conflict in this region.”
A day earlier, on an Aug. 12 tour of Israel’s northern border, Ya’alon said Assad still controls some 40 percent of the country. The bloodbath that has claimed more than 100,000 Syrian lives could continue indefinitely, the Israeli said.
Dempsey has repeatedly expressed concerns over the costs, benefits and risks associated with US military intervention on behalf of the loosely coordinated, disparate rebel groups battling to oust Assad and his Alawite minority rule of the country.