President Barack Obama today reiterated support for actions that Israel is taking to maintain its long-established red line against the transfer of Syrian advanced weapons to terrorist groups. His statements were in reference to reports that Israel on Friday struck a Syrian missile shipment. They come amid reports that Jerusalem on Sunday conducted additional strikes against Syrian military infrastructure.
The Sunday strikes reportedly targeted Iranian weapons bound for the Iran-backed, Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah. An American official told the New York Times that the weapons were Iranian-made surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles. Fateh-110’s are mobile, highly accurate, solid-fuel missiles that have sufficient range to strike deep into Israel from southern Lebanon, including into Tel Aviv.
The Israelis have long maintained that Jerusalem would act to prevent either the transfer of advanced weapons to allies of the embattled Bashar al-Assad regime or the seizure of those weapons by opposition groups seeking the regime’s overthrow.
Without commenting on the credibility of reports linking Israel to Friday’s strikes, Obama emphasized that such strikes are justified. A video of the President’s interview with Telemundo is embedded below:
Obama, in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo as part of a three-day Latin America tour that ended in Costa Rica, would not comment on whether the strikes had in fact taken place. “I’ll let the Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes that they’ve taken,” he said… “What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon,” he said.
The U.S. president has been consistent in emphasizing U.S. support for Israeli actions designed to maintain the Jewish state’s red line against the transfer of advanced Syrian weaponry. Obama was explicit on this point in an August 2012 speech:
“That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us,” Obama said, also acknowledging the possibility that militant groups might acquire some of those weapons. “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”
The president noted that he has not ordered any armed U.S. intervention yet, but said: “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that’s a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.”
The Israeli military is declining to comment on reports of this evening’s strike.