Syria is preparing for a possible war with Israel, but believes that the prospects for such a conflict are slim, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday, according to Syrian news agency SANA.
Syria has recently boosted its forces on the border with Israel, fearing that a Hizbullah retaliatory attack against Israeli targets for Imad Mugniyah's death may lead to a military escalation in the region.
Speaking at a conference in Damascus, Assad said that the recent war with Lebanon has made Israel less assured of its existence in the Middle East.
"None of us can rule out the option of war, but it is arguable whether Israel will launch war against Lebanon or Syria, or whether the United States will launch a war against Iran.
"We should analyze the situation from the perspective of American interests, because the last war in Lebanon has shown that at some point Israel wanted to stop the fighting, but was forced by the US administration to pursue it further," he stated.
According to the Syrian leader, "We know that there are those in the American administration who want this war, and we are preparing for the worst. We're acting as if war is imminent and are preparing for it, but our intelligence does not indicate that such war is on the horizon."
Assad sounded very optimistic regarding the Arabs' future in the Middle East in view of Israel's "ageing" following the Second Lebanon War. "After the Lebanon war it was proved that we, the Arabs, are renewing our young generation, while Israel is entering stage of old age.
"Following this war, the question of the country's fate and continued existence has arisen in Israel. Let us let them deal with their issues… while we act according to our own interests."
Referring to the question of normalizing relations with Israel, Assad seemed skeptical: "What's happening in Egypt and Jordan proves that the public is not interested in normalization, and it cannot be forced on it. I know that the Syrian people reject normalization and will not force it on them."
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Yedioth Ahronoth that Israel and Syria have been exchanging messages "on the issues at stake." In an interview set to be published Friday, the PM stated: "I can assure you that on the matters that concern us and the Syrians, they know what I want from them, and I know very well what they want from us."