Netanyahu Links US Response in Syria to Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the international community must ensure Syria is stripped of its chemical weapons as a lesson to its ally Iran.
Any impression of Syria getting away with its use of such arms would be taken as encouragement by Iran, which Israel and the West accuse of seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal, he said.
"Now it must be ensured that the Syrian regime will be disarmed of its chemical weapons, and the world needs to make certain that those who use weapons of mass destruction will pay the price for it," Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on army radio.
"The message that Syria receives will be received in Iran," he said at a naval officers' graduation ceremony.
He did not elaborate, but earlier President Shimon Peres previously warned Washington would take military action against Syria should it fail to destroy its chemical stockpile in line with a Russian proposal.
"If Syria is honest and will take real steps to remove and destroy the chemical weapons in its territory, the US will not attack," Peres said in a statement.
But "if there will be a crack in Syria's integrity, I have no doubt that the US will act militarily," he warned.
Peres' optimism regarding the Obama administration's resolve to act decisively vis-a-vis Syria stands in sharp contrast to many other Israeli politicians and political analysts, who have been vocal in their criticism of the US government's perceived prevarication and indecisiveness following the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
Other American allies - most notably Saudi Arabia - have watched with some consternation at US dithering over what response, if any, to make to what President Obama previously termed his "red line," fearing a similar lack of resolve when it comes to confronting the Iranian nuclear question.
Peres' confidence did not extend to the motives of the Assad regime.
Later, speaking at the same event as Netanyahu, Peres poured more doubt on Syria's motives.
"Assad cannot be trusted to honor the agreement," his office quoted him as saying.
"Assad knows that any harm to Israel will cost him and we have proven our ability to defend ourselves from war," he added.
"We have the ability to overcome terror. Terror today is like a boomerang - it harms those who use it more than it harms its targets."
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama postponed his threat to strike Syria, after President Bashar al-Assad's regime welcomed a Russian proposal to gather and destroy its chemical arsenal. But he said it was too early to say if the Russian plan would succeed.
Syria demands the return of the Golan Heights which Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, seized in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed.