Netanyahu on Syrian options: 'Bad, bad and worse'

PM tells Congressional delegation that fate of Syria's chemical weapons foremost in everyone's mind.

Netanyahu meets with US congressmen 370 (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Netanyahu meets with US congressmen 370
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
The policy choices available for dealing with Syria “are between bad, bad, and worse,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a three-member bipartisan Congressional delegation on Monday, amid heightened concern over the fate of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
The first problem in looking at Syria, Netanyahu told the congressmen from the House Armed Services Committee, is the issue of chemical weapons, which he said was foremost on everyone’s minds.
The larger issues, he said, were what will happen to the regime, what sort of regime will follow and whether Syria will develop into another failed state.
At the outset of the meeting with the delegation, led by Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), Netanyahu praised the close cooperation between Israel and the US on all matters, “including the developing matters in Syria.”
He spoke of “very close cooperation between our two governments,” and said this was “important for the stability of the region” as well as “for the security of Israel.”
The other two congressmen in the delegation were Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Hank Johnson (D-Georgia).
Netanyahu’s comments about the tight US-Israel cooperation regarding Syria were echoed by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who said in an Israel Radio interview that there was continuous dialogue and coordination between the two countries, at the highest levels, to deal with the region’s security challenges.
“There are two dangerous possibilities regarding Syria,” Shapiro said. “Either the regime will use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or will transfer the chemical weapons to Hezbollah or other extreme organizations. We want to prevent either of those possibilities from taking place, and we are watching the situation closely.”
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who characterized Syria as a chemical weapons superpower, said Israel was monitoring the situation to understand with as much specificity as possible what was happening to the country’s chemical weapons arsenal. He said Israel was not alone in this, and that there were many countries worried about the situation, though Israel was “one of the leading worried countries because of its proximity.”
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Dichter said the unpredictability now in Syria was making the situation more complicated, as was the lack of clarity regarding who was in control, and even whether loyalists of President Bashar Assad would listen to him, or perhaps take a more extreme view than he does.
In a related development, Ma’ariv reported on Monday that Netanyahu had dispatched his national security advisor Yaakov Amidror to Moscow for meetings there on the chemical weapons issue. The Prime Minister’s Office would not verify the report, saying it does not comment on Amidror’s travels.
Amidror was making his way to the country as Russia held its largest ever naval maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coasts of Syria, in what is seen as a clear message to Western powers that it would not tolerate a forceful intervention by NATO in the country.
In an interview with The New Republic published on Monday, US President Barack Obama spoke about his struggle over how to respond to the ongoing violence in Syria.
“I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations,” Obama noted. “In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation?” He went on to pose a question about whether such intervention would have an impact in that country, but also on the US ability to support troops in Afghanistan and whether American action would trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons.
Obama also asked, “How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” Obama continued by pointing out these were not simple questions with easy answers.
“You make the decisions you think balance all these equities, and you hope that, at the end of your presidency, you can look back and say, I made more right calls than not and that I saved lives where I could.”