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September 15, 2013 6:30 pm

Obama Says Iran ‘Shouldn’t Draw a Lesson’ From U.S. Handling of Syria Chemical Weapons Crisis

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President Obama on PBS. Photo: Screenshot.

U.S. President Barack Obama warned Sunday that his country’s hesitation in carrying out a military strike against Syria has no bearing on how it will address Iran’s push for nuclear weapons.

“My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck- to think we won’t strike Iran.  On the other hand, what is- what- they should draw from this lesson is that there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview.

The U.S. threatened military action against Syria after concluding that a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in late August that left scores of civilians dead, had been carried out by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. However, a deal brokered Saturday by the United States and Russia, which supports Assad, eliminated the possibility of U.S. military action if Syria relinquishes control of its chemical weapons to the international community.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered support for U.S. efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons Sunday, following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We hope the understandings bear fruit. Those understandings will be judged by the results,” he said, referring to the proposed total destruction of Syria’s chemical arms, to take place by mid-2014. “The test of the results also applies to the efforts by the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear armaments. There, too, not words but actions will be the deciding factor.”

President Obama said he believes Iran realizes that, despite the use of chemical weapons in Syria, preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons still remains a top priority for the United States.

“I think what the Iranians understand is that- the nuclear issue- is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that- the threat against Iran- against Israel, that a nuclear Iran poses, is much closer to our core interests.  That- a nuclear arms race in the region- is something that would be profoundly destabilizing,” he said.

But Obama said he holds out hope that military action can be averted.

“I think this new [Iranian] president is not gonna suddenly make it easy.  But- you know, my view is that if you have- both a credible threat of force, combined with a rigorous diplomatic effort, that, in fact- you can- you can strike a deal,” he said, adding that he holds “out that hope.”

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  • Matt

    Yeah they should one any temporary concessions good will gesture to Iran could also be seen as the US being upset with the Arabs over Egypt (no one said no crackdown or coup only no massacres) the secret deal for a veto and arms from Russia, leading to Assad being given the green light to gas people from Moscow and or the Arabs. Which would force the red line and draw the US into use of force. Just as no attack on Syria at this stage for the gas attack can also be seen as punishment for that double deal. Those concession could be small concessions on sanctions to allowing some oil on to the market, taking 5th fleet out of the gulf for extended exercises and taking time to return to port during talks, etc.

  • Gabrielle

    I am admiring Pres. Obama more and more as I view his diplomacy. He does not care about “style” and macho concerns like whether or not he “appears” weak. He is really strong to withstand all the bashing he has received especially from Republicans and still pursue the “right” goals–i.e. the morally correct goal, the one that says No More War (that includes no attacks of any sort unless there is absolutely no other choice). Some say he has been humiliated by Putin–I say Obama is right to ignore such remarks in the spirit of: ‘Sticks and Stones can Break our Bones but Words can Never Harm Us’ (which concept comes from the Torah). “Humiliated” is okay–killing people is not.

  • Lawrence Kulak

    There is a bright side to all of this. You know all the second guessers of Hakadosh Baruch Hu – including those who think that Obama has an unequivocal imperative to strike Syria no matter what – may not realize that the protector of Israel never sleeps. Obama might have wimped out now, but he is saving all his bravado hopefully on an Iranian strike which will ultimately save the world. Yeah, I can see Obama being the one to do it – he likes doing popular things and he is after all, the opposite of George Bush who forgot to go to war against one one corner of his axis of evil(truth is, he was chicken shit)