Thomas Roberts   |  May 06, 2013

Syria: Israeli air strikes ‘a declaration of war’

Former Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin explain whether the Israeli air strikes will make U.S. involvement in the situation in Syria more likely.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today a declaration of war . that is how syrian leaders are describing israeli air strikes to respond with all options on the table with syria vowing a crushing response. the government has claimed responsibility for the attack s attacks --

>> all of the israeli government confirm or deny strikes that were taken. what i have said in the past and i continue to believe is that the israelis justifybly have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like hezbollah .

>>> president obama is stuck between a bolder and a hard place in being accused of not sticking to his convictions in his so-called red line .

>> unfortunately, the red line that the president of the united states says he has written was written in invisible ink . he has failed to act.

>> the debate over u.s. involvement is adding optics to secretary of state john kerry 's trip to russia. he is said to meet with president putin tomorrow. a lot to get to. and joining me to kick off the hour we have bill richardson . and nbc foreign respondent. you said the air strikes are in the cards. with israel 's air strikes it makes u.s. involvement in some way shape or form much more likely, doesn't it?

>> well, i do believe so. i think now that britain and france have joined the effort to arm the rebels the fact that the military commander of the syrian independence group has also talked about not having links to al qaeda . the momentum of the israeli air strikes , i think it is inevitable that we eventually will use some kind of air strikes , limited to protect some of the rebel fortresses but also possibly to go after some of the chemical sites which i think soon will be declared to be there by the united nations . and vulnerable. so i think a decision by the president is imminent. i don't think he is vacillated here. he said he wanted evidence. he wanted developments like diplomatic efforts with secretary kerry and the russians. i think that is happening.

>> certainly as we had him here asking for peaceful opposition of assad but to target the weapons that could be using from iran to syria through hezbollah and lebanon. explain the geography of how that move would go and why it is so important that israel feels it needs to get involved with this dynamic but not to take out bashar al assad .

>> they have maintained a very quiet border for israel . israel occupies. syria has not created problems for israel on that border for the past several decades. it has sent weapons to hezbollah from which hezbollah used to attack israel and defend lebanese territory. the question at this point for the israelis is did carrying out this attack serve a strategic objective or an optical one. in this case they are arguing that these weapons, these critical game changing weapons were going to hezbollah and that could have created more problems for israel 's northern border.

>> the a.p. is quoting u.n. official as saying they have evidence that it was the syrian rebel forces that used the agent and not assad's regime. the u.s. is looking for the chain of command of how that was used. how do we figure out the truth in this one? and also time ticks off with lack of u.s. military involvement. how does that play out on the humanitarian front?

>> the key really is to get a fact finding mission on the ground to speak to both parties to collect evidence and samples and speak to eyewitnesss and have access to the area where the alleged chemical attacks took place and then you can draw on the chain of command . the other question is whether or not the rebels have access to chemical weapons . we know western intelligence has been telling us it has been found by the regime. more importantly, despite the fact that it has been condemned by the free syrian army and the opposition, was this rebel group operating within the larger context of the opposition?

>> i want to ask you this because in a piece in the "new york times" officials are quoting they regret the president setting the red line . if it was the rebel forces using the nerve gas , how does that change the quarterbacking happening with the white house on capitol hill and how does it effect the trip for john kerry to russia right now?

>> well, i don't think it affects it. the fact is chemical weapons probably haven't been used possibly by both sides. that doesn't justify anything. i think what is appropriate here is what is the u.s. response? and i think the president has said if there is conclusive evidence it is going to trigger him stepping up. it is not as if we are not helping. we are training. we are taking some military related steps even though they are considered nonlethal. i think the key is those air strikes . i think israel made a positive calculation. syria is in no position to respond to those israeli air strikes . maybe hezbollah will. i doubt it very much because obviously israel has tremendous force and capability. but i think it also signals to the iranians that israel maybe is not going to take a look at those sites in iran right now but they are capable of responding militarily to some of their allies in the region. and that is hezbollah .

>> former governor bill richardson a