JERUSALEM – Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Jerusalem on Sunday to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S.-Russia deal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons does not diminish American resolve to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.
Seeing the deal through the prism of Iran, the Obama administration knows that its commitment to strike Iran if diplomacy fails is now under question.
President Obama told ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” in an interview broadcast Sunday that Iran understands that its nuclear program is “a far larger issue for us” than the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel “is much closer to our core interests.”
Obama said that Iran recognizes it shouldn’t draw the wrong conclusion because he made the decision not to launch a missile strike against Syria. “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck (Syria) to think we won’t strike Iran,” he said.
Netanyahu told Kerry that he has been closely monitoring the Syrian weapons diplomacy and supports it.
“The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons,” Netanyahu said. “That would make our entire region a lot safer.”
The Israeli leader stressed that any action on the Syrian front must be seen in the context of “the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran.”
At the same time, diplomats in Israel worry that the push to have Syria sign and ratify a chemical weapons treaty, and allow for inspections of its arsenal, throws an unwelcome spotlight on the secretive chemical and nuclear arsenal that Israel has built next door. Israel is presumed to have nuclear weapons and also is suspected of at least some chemical weapons capability.
Kerry heads next to Paris for discussions about the Syria deal with foreign ministers from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.