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Reported Israel-led missile attack in Syria is sign of growing regional tension

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2013

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Sunday that Israel's reported airstrike outside of Damascus early Sunday is "sending a signal" to Iran, Hezbollah and possibly the United States "that the situation right in the Syrian area is getting very, very tense."

Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, was responding to developing reports that Israel decided to intercept a shipment of missiles from Iran to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, with the strike, and to reports that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are using chemical weapons on their own people.

"I think in the next few days, my view is that the president will opt towards some kind of limited military option," Mr. Richardson told ABC's "This Week."

Former Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican who vacated his seat at the start of the year to take over the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, said the president has been too passive in addressing the conflict in Syria.

"I think the president needs to make it clear what we will do. And he's already tried to do that with his bright red line, which he hadn't followed through on," he said on the program. "So I don't know what his steps should be right now, but clearly, his indecisiveness has destabilized and probably brought Israel into this."

Mr. DeMint's reference to a "red line" has become a sticky subject for the White House. 

In August, Mr. Obama suggested that the use of chemical weapons would cross a threshold, or "red line," that could change his stance on American intervention in Syria's civil war.

Since then, critics have blasted the Obama administration for staking out an unclear position on potential U.S. military involvement in the conflict.

Mr. Richardson said that increasing signs that the British and French governments could arm the Syrian rebels could ease the way for some kind of American intervention.

But Mr. DeMint told ABC that Syria is "almost a distraction here," because the "issue here is Iran" and the weapons it may be distributing to Israel's enemies. 

"We have to focus on how we can demonstrate our support of Israel and continue the pressure on Iran," he said on the show. "Otherwise, we're going to create more problems inside Syria."

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