Syrian President Bashar Assad said that his nation is ready for war with Israel. In an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anba, he was asked whether, pursuant to the war in Lebanon, Syria was prepared against Israeli attacks and would be prepared to wage war.
In response, the president replied: "During the aggression against Lebanon, there was vast pressure from among the population to fight against Israel and liberate the Golan. Many people made suggestions to this effect, directly and informally."
According to Assad, his nation is expecting an Israeli attack: "As far was we're concerned, the prospect for peace is unrelated to the changing circumstances and constitutes a basic principle, but, at the same time, we are preparing for an Israeli attack at any minute. We all know that Israel is military strong and backed by the US."
"Ever since Ariel Sharon came to power, Israel has given up on the peace process. Sharon's election was a sign that Israel had comprehensively given up on the peace process and the US government only strengthened this trend. Therefore, naturally, our expectation is that there will not be peace and perhaps will be war," said the president.
"What does it mean to be in a state neither of peace or war?" he asked. "Either war or peace. Period. This is why we have to prepare, to the best of our ability."
Assad addressed Lebanese complaints regarding arms smuggling from Syria to Hizbullah-controlled areas in Lebanon.
"When you speak of smuggling, you must understand that it is bidirectional smuggling, not smuggling only from one side to the other. Goods arrive from every direction. Anyone who needs arms goes to a place where he can buy arms. The smuggling comes from Iraq, Lebanon and all over the place. It cannot be stopped," he said.
In September, the president said that he didn't discount the possibility that war would break out in the region: "This option is possible, because Israel is looking for a way out from the crisis it is in through a new adventure, by which it will restore its security."
Assad estimated that Israel may attack Syria under the pretext that it is aiding Iran, but declared that "Syria will resist, will stand strong and will never give in."
Tuesday, President Assad said that he believes that peace with Israel could be achieved within six months – if negotiations begin where they last left off.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, the Syrian president said: "Our vision regarding peace stated that no more than two years should pass since we set out for the Madrid conference (and until the negotiations are completed)… if we want to renew talks from the same point we stopped, then the talks need six months."
Two weeks earlier - in response to a question of whether he supports Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cry to eliminate Israel - Assad told German magazine Der Spiegel that Syria wanted peace with Israel, "not to see it destroyed."
"But my personal opinion, my hopes for peace, could one day change. And if this hope disappears, then war may really be the only solution," he added.
Regarding Israel's recent war with Hizbullah, Assad told Der Speigel that it would be impossible to prevent arms from reaching the militant organization due to its strong public support.
"As long as public support for Hizbullah is as high as it today ... then this is 'mission impossible'. The majority sees resistance against Israel as legitimate. I advise the Europeans -- don't waste your time. Get to the root of the problem."