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
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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid