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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More