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20 Mar, 2013 20:38

Obama: If Syrian regime used chemical weapons, ‘red line’ crossed

Obama: If Syrian regime used chemical weapons, ‘red line’ crossed

President Barack Obama said that the US is looking into reports that chemical weapons were used in Aleppo on Tuesday, killing two dozen people. If the Syrian government deployed them, it would mean a “red line” had been crossed, he warned.

Obama’s warning that the deployment of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be a “game changer” came during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, both the Syrian government and rebel fighters accused each other of launching a rocket chemical warhead in Aleppo which reportedly killed 25 and injured 86.

“With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened,” Obama said.

“So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed.”

Obama expressed deep skepticism regarding Syrian state media reports that “terrorists” had in fact fired the rocket, saying that the Syrian government both had the capability and had previously expressed a willingness to deploy chemical weapons “to protect themselves.”

“The broader point is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer and I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass causalities and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria, and the international community has to act on that additional information,” Obama stated.

The US president's comments also touched on Iran, which Washington and Tel Aviv accuse of developing a nuclear weapon. Though Washington is known to have convinced Tel Aviv behind closed doors against attacking Iran, Obama noted that he believed Netanyahu was "absolutely correct" in his belief that it was Israel's right to strike Iran as a self-defense measure.

Obama added his belief that there was "not a lot of daylight" between Israeli and American intelligence on Iranian nuclear development, adding that, however, Washington still thinks "there is time to resolve this diplomatically."

Referring to the option of ending its unproven nuclear weapons development program, Obama said, "The question is, will the Iranian leadership seize that opportunity."

RT spoke to Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation on International Affairs, about the visit and the rhetoric on Iran.

When asked if Netanyahu is ready to go it alone without the US in an attack on Iran, Laurenti said, “certainly Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to set the marker that the United States cannot hold him back indefinitely if he feels his real security interests are at stake." But, he added, "the reality is that Israel cannot dare act on an attack against Iran and be confident of having the United States to protect it from retaliation, unless it has ... made the case why such an attack is desperate and a last resort. And that he has not been able to do with the Obama administration.”