Last updated: 11 September, 2013

Netanyahu: Message to Syria will be heard in Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the international community must ensure Syria is stripped of its chemical weapons as a lesson to its ally Iran.

Any impression of Syria getting away with its use of such arms would be taken as encouragement by Iran, which Israel and the West accuse of seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal, he said.

“Now it must be ensured that the Syrian regime will be disarmed of its chemical weapons and the world needs to make certain that those who use weapons of mass destruction will pay the price for it,” Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on army radio.

“The message that Syria receives will be received in Iran,” he said at a naval officers’ graduation ceremony.

He did not elaborate, but earlier President Shimon Peres warned Washington would take military action against Syria should it fail to destroy its chemical stockpile in line with a Russian proposal.

“If Syria is honest and will take real steps to remove and destroy the chemical weapons in its territory, the US will not attack,” Peres said in a statement.

But “if there will be a crack in Syria’s integrity, I have no doubt that the US will act militarily,” he warned.

Later, speaking at the same event as Netanyahu, Peres poured more doubt on Syria’s motives.

“Assad cannot be trusted to honour the agreement,” his office quoted him as saying.

“Assad knows that any harm to Israel will cost him and we have proven our ability to defend ourselves from war,” he added.

“We have the ability to overcome terror. Terror today is like a boomerang — it harms those who use it more than it harms its targets.”

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama postponed his threat to strike Syria, after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime welcomed a Russian proposal to gather and destroy its chemical arsenal.

But he said it was too early to say if the Russian plan would succeed.

Syria demands the return of the Golan Heights which Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, seized in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed.