|US signals Syria showdown, ally Israel bends Washington’s ear in White House chat
A senior Israeli delegation visited the White House Monday for high-level talks on the Syria chemical weapons crisis and the nuclear showdown with Iran.
The visit came just as Washington gave the clearest signal of military action in Syria and also made a veiled warning to Russia over its support for President Bashar al-Assad.
On Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres (pictured) called for an international effort to take out Syria's chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said there was “undeniable'' evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack by Assad's forces.
"The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and _ despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured _ it is undeniable,'' said Kerry, the highest-ranking US official to confirm the attack in the Damascus suburbs that activists say killed hundreds of people.
"This international norm cannot be violated without consequences,'' he added.
Officials said US National Security Adviser Susan Rice met retired Israeli major general Yaakov Amidror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top national security adviser Monday.
The talks centered on “Iran, Egypt, Syria, and a range of other regional security issues,'' said US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
Two administration officials said the US was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons Tuesday, with an announcement of President Barack Obama's response likely to follow quickly.
“We continue to believe that there's no military solution here that's good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution,'' State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “This is about the violation of an international norm against the use of chemical weapons and how we should respond to that.''
The US is moving ahead even as a United Nations team in Syria collected evidence from last week's attack.
Assad has denied launching a chemical attack.
Kerry on Monday made several veiled warnings to Russia, which has propped up Assad's regime, blocked action against Syria at the UN, and disputed evidence of the government's chemical weapons use.
“Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale can be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass,'' he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, spoke Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to outline the evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad.
Cameron's office also said the British government would decide Tuesday whether the timetable for the international response means it will be necessary to recall lawmakers to Parliament before their scheduled return next week. That decision could offer the clearest indication of how quickly the U.S. and allies plan to respond.—AFP/AP