The Obama administration Thursday warned Iran and Syria that America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakable and that they should understand the consequences of threats to the Jewish state.
In a speech, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Syrian transfers of increasingly sophisticated weaponry including rockets to militants in southern Lebanon and Gaza could spark new conflict in the Middle East. And she said a nuclear-armed Iran would profoundly destabilize the region.
"These threats to Israel's security are real, they are growing and they must be addressed," she said in the speech to the American Jewish Committee. The speech was the administration's latest effort to reassure Israel that its ties to the United States remain strong despite tensions that flared last month.
Clinton told the group that Israel is "confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history," particularly from Iran, Syria and groups they support like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and reaffirmed U.S. determination to get them to change course.
"Transferring weapons to these terrorists — especially longer-range missiles — would pose a serious threat to the security of Israel," she said.
Israel has accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with Scud missiles, weapons that would dramatically increase the group's ability to strike targets in Israel. Syria has denied the charges.
U.S. officials have not confirmed Hezbollah's possession of Scuds, but say they are concerned about its growing arsenal of rockets and missiles.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, addressing the same group later, made the same points as Clinton and said Israel was watching closely the situation with Hezbollah and Iran. He said Israel would hold the Lebanese and Syrian governments responsible for the introduction of any "balance-breaking weapons" to Hezbollah.