Obama warns Syrian leaders: ‘The use of chemical weapons is a game changer’

Updated
President Obama speaks at a news conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013
President Obama speaks at a news conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013
REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Obama said Wednesday that the United States is working to “investigate thoroughly” the threat of chemical weapons in Syria. He said he was “deeply skeptical” that any chemical weapons have been used at this time by the opposition. Some Israeli officials fear chemical weapons have been used by the regime in Damascus; President Obama did not endorse or reject that view. But he made his support for the Israeli government explicit and absolute–which was the diplomatic point of the two-day visit.

“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 or not this red line was crossed,” Obama said. “I will note, without at this point having all the facts before me, that we know the Syrian government has the capacity to carry out chemical weapon attacks. We know that there are those in the Syrian government who have expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons if necessary to protect themselves.”

Obama added he would not make any announcements during Wednesday’s conference about what the United States’ next actions would be if chemical weapons were discovered to have been used, but said, “I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.”

“I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties, 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,” he said.

The Wednesday press conference marked the start of Obama’s first trip to Israel as president.

Obama warns Syrian leaders: 'The use of chemical weapons is a game changer'

Updated