In Israel, Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Weapons

On Iran, says there's still time for diplomacy to work

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 20, 2013 4:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Maybe the most newsworthy item out of President Obama's news conference today with Benjamin Netanyahu centered on Syria, not Israel. Obama said the US is investigating claims that chemical weapons were used in Aleppo, and he warned that Bashar al-Assad will be held accountable if he employed them, reports Reuters. "I’ve instructed my teams to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed," said Obama, using language the New York Times described as "surprisingly strong in tone." The president added that he was "deeply skeptical" of the Assad regime's claims that it was rebels who used chemical weapons. (It remains unclear whether either side used them.)

Obama also reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself—"each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action"—and he said "there is not a lot of daylight" between US and Israeli assessments on Iran's nuclear program, reports USA Today. Netanyahu said he is "absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons." While he stressed Israel's right to act independently, Obama said there's still time for a diplomatic solution. The trip isn't expected to yield much in terms of concrete policy.

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during their joint news conference in Jerusalem.
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during their joint news conference in Jerusalem.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come together on stage after a joint news conference Wednesday.
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come together on stage after a joint news conference Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Obama puts his hand on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk out together following their joint news conference in Jerusalem.
President Obama puts his hand on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk out together following their joint news conference in Jerusalem.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend. It's in our fundamental security interest to stand with Israel. - President Obama

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