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September 3, 2013 2:55 pm

Syria Crisis Minimizing Israeli Confidence in U.S. on Iran Nuclear Issue

avatar by Zach Pontz

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama

As the Obama administration lobbies Congress to vote for a strike on the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, some in the Jewish state are expressing mixed feelings about the tactic, saying it calls into question the U.S.-Israel alliance against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

According to a report in the Financial Times, there is a fear in Israel that “any lack of US resolve over disciplining Bashar al-Assad’s government for crossing ‘red lines’ on chemical weapons use…sets a bad precedent for efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.”

Israel’s Channel 2 reported Monday night that  Israel is “discomfited that both Obama and [Secretary of State John] Kerry mentioned Israel as a potential victim of Assad’s chemical weapons.”  Israel, the report quoted unnamed senior Israeli officials as saying, “is not a victim. We don’t need America to take care of threats to Israel.”

The FT quotes Mike Herzog, a retired Israeli general and international fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as saying, “You hear more and more people in government saying, ‘Can we really rely on the US to stop Iran? If they can’t take a decision on a red line in Syria, why should we think they could do so on Iran?”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama administration officials “are saying privately that a ‘no’ vote would encourage Iran to charge ahead with its suspected bomb program and would make it harder for the United States to intervene later.”
But it may be too late for Obama to assuage Israeli fears, with some already concluding that US deterrence has been weakened by its handling of the Syria crisis.

“Will the US back its own red lines and do something about Iran?” Yoel Guzansky, a researcher for the Institute for National Security Studies, asked, in the Financial Times. “The answer… is no – we are alone. That’s a very basic feeling – this is what people here think.”

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