News / Middle East

Syria Issue Likely to Come Up During Obama's Mideast Trip

Concerns About Syria Likely to Come Up During Obama's Mideast Tripi
X
March 13, 2013 8:22 PM
President Obama's trip to the Middle East is primarily about how to find a path to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But the war in Syria, where Israel is increasingly concerned about Iran's involvement and the growing calls to arm the Syrian rebels, are issues likely to be discussed during Mr. Obama's trip. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
President Obama's trip to the Middle East is primarily about how to find a path to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  But the war in Syria, where Israel is increasingly concerned about Iran's involvement and the growing calls to arm the Syrian rebels, are issues likely to be discussed during Obama's trip. 

With President Assad's forces still controlling Syrian air space, rebels want the United States to give them the weapons they say they need to finish the fight.

"When we are denied weapons, we don't have the capacity to defend our families and the killings will continue," said Salim Idrss of the Free Syrian Army.

But arming Assad opponents has its own risks, says U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann.

"There continues to be concern about the political risks involved if we should ever - even 20 years from now - read that the weapons provided by the United States played a role in an attack on Americans," he said.

Israel is also concerned about arming Syrian rebels.

Although Syria, under Bashar al-Assad, has been an ally of Iran and of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Israeli-Syrian border has been calm for years.

"There is concern in Israel, for example, that sending arms to the Syrian opposition will be equipping groups that could some day use them against Israel," said Heydemann. "There is concern that if the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis is broken, Iran will feel more endangered, more threatened, and could in fact be more inclined to push its nuclear program more quickly toward a nuclear-weapons capability."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not believe U.S.-led sanctions will end Iran's nuclear threat. And Washington appears to have no leverage over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says Johns Hopkins University professor Ruth Wedgwood.

"Some of this may be Ahmadinejad trying to enhance his own national stature because he's not as well-liked as before within Iran.  But it's not a time when the US appears to have any influence," she said.

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, says President Obama understands Israel's concerns.

"Israel's neighborhood, if you will, is undergoing a pretty severe transition, and there's crisis, and it's important for the people of Israel to understand that the American people stand with them in that time of crisis and that we're going to be there to protect them and work with them to ensure their security," he said.

As for arming the Syrian rebels, Secretary of State John Kerry has said the U.S. will provide direct assistance to the fighters, but no weapons.

Syrian rebels say the war will continue until its allies move to match the weapons President Assad is receiving from Iran and Russia.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs