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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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