— Though Israeli president Shimon Peres denounced Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as a “murderer’’ in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday, he believes it’s not Israel’s place to attempt to remove him from power.
Peres believes the Arab League should take action to remove Assad, whose military has massacred thousands of Syrian civilians and children, according to reports by the United Nations and other human rights groups. However, if the League does not oust Assad, Peres does not believe this is Israel’s fight.
“Israel cannot help,’’ Peres said. “Our intervention may be perceived as the wrong intervention, even from their point of view. We must be careful not to make it an Israeli issue. The best alternative is that Arabs will do it themselves.’’
‘Revolt against humanity’
Complicating the issue with Syria have been efforts by Russia and China to block efforts by the United States in the region.
“I don't believe that Russia or China can or should see in Assad an existing alternative, because he already killed so many people,’’ Peres said. “No country, China or Russia or anybody else, can remain indifferent to this revolt against humanity.”
Peres is visiting Washington this week to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday, and he met with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Monday. They discussed the violence in Syria as well as Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other Middle Eastern issues, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little.
While Peres agrees with the United States policy of economic sanctions to stop Iran’s nuclear program, he did not dismiss the notion of a military option. He said he believes that if economic sanctions are the only threat, it will not be enough to be successful and that Israel “is emphasizing that this is two steps, not one.”
“The sheer existence of the other option is the message,’’ Peres said. “If you say, ‘All the options are on the table,’ everyone understands what are all the options.
“Right now the position is clear. The message to Iran: ‘Stop it.”’