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Israel may ask Obama to hit Syria missiles

JERUSALEM, March 18 (UPI) — Israel’s leader will try to sway President Obama to attack Syria if its missiles appear headed to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, The Guardian reported.

Short of that, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hopes, when he meets with Obama for 5 hours in Jerusalem Wednesday, to at least get full U.S. support for any Israeli military action to prevent such a transfer, the British newspaper reported Monday.

Jerusalem and Washington had no immediate comment on the report.

The Obama administration has said it would intervene militarily only to stop the Assad regime from using chemical or biological weapons, or to stop it from transferring them to extremist groups.

It has not stated its position if Israel intervenes for its own reasons.

Obama has been steadfast in his public support for Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from the Palestinian Gaza Strip territory.

Israeli officials say they feel without getting Washington to agree to an airstrike against Syria or at least to support one by Israel, Jerusalem will be left alone to deal with the spread of Syria’s arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, the newspaper said.

They also believe Netanyahu is highly unlikely to change Obama’s position on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, so coming together on Syria-Hezbollah is the best chance Washington and Jerusalem will have of getting a U.S.-Israeli agreement during Obama’s visit, The Guardian said.

Obama said last week Tehran was more than “a year or so” away from developing a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu told the United Nations in September Israel believed Iran would be close to nuclear weapons capability in the spring or summer of this year.

Iran insists its uranium-enrichment program is for peaceful purposes to produce energy and medical isotopes — a claim Israel and many Western countries reject.

On Jan. 30, Israeli warplanes destroyed a Syrian convoy on the outskirts of Damascus that Israeli officials said was carrying sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missiles to the Hezbollah Shiite Islamic militant group and political party.

Syria and its allies said the Israeli target was a research facility in the Damascus suburb of Jamraya.

Israel said it would strike again in similar circumstances.

Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, wants to upgrade its arsenal in hopes of changing the balance in any future engagement with Israel, and Israel is determined to stop it, The New York Times reported.

A senior Israeli official told The Guardian they thought the Obama administration would want to stop the spread of Syrian SAM and sea-skimming anti-ship guided missiles, if nothing more than because of the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.

“These missiles are not just a problem for Israel. They include [anti-ship] missiles — and who has the biggest navy in the Mediterranean?” the official said, referring to the Sixth Fleet.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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