Official: U.S. Approach to Syria ‘Consistent’ With Counter-WMD Strategy

Workers in protective clothing at a Munster, Germany, company involved in the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, as seen in March. A senior U.S. defense official said U.S. policy toward Damascus is "consistent" with a new Pentagon strategy for countering weapons of mass destruction worldwide.
National Journal
Elaine M. Grossman
June 30, 2014, 10:45 a.m.

A seni­or De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cial on Monday said the U.S. ap­proach to the con­flict in Syr­ia has been “con­sist­ent” with a just-up­dated Pentagon strategy for coun­ter­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

The White House last Thursday moved to bol­ster aid to Syr­i­an rebels just days after Dam­as­cus fin­ished re­lin­quish­ing its chem­ic­al arms.

At a Pentagon press con­fer­ence, the seni­or of­fi­cial — speak­ing on con­di­tion of not be­ing named — was asked wheth­er the jux­ta­pos­i­tion in the Syr­ia case might someday make oth­er rogue lead­ers think twice about giv­ing up their nuc­le­ar, chem­ic­al or bio­lo­gic­al arms.

“I feel that our ef­fort — and the en­tire ef­fort — to elim­in­ate Syr­ia’s de­clared chem­ic­al weapons stock­pile is con­sist­ent from this [strategy],” the of­fi­cial said. “We’ve taken the ideas as we’ve been de­vel­op­ing the strategy, and we’ve been ap­ply­ing it to the Syr­ia prob­lem. So it’s ac­tu­ally been an it­er­at­ive ex­per­i­ence.”

The fig­ure did not elab­or­ate spe­cific­ally on any rami­fic­a­tions of the tim­ing of bolstered aid to rebels, but al­luded broadly to some of the com­plex­it­ies in­volved.

“This is a coun­ter­ing-WMD strategy,” the of­fi­cial said. “It’s not a re­gion­al strategy. It won’t solve prob­lems out­side of the WMD lane.

“Our goal there is to try to take the WMD prob­lems, re­duce them, elim­in­ate them where we can, take them off the table wherever pos­sible, so that we can get about the busi­ness of solv­ing oth­er prob­lems,” the seni­or of­fi­cial ad­ded.

Last Monday, an in­ter­na­tion­al co­ali­tion an­nounced it had com­pleted the re­mov­al of ap­prox­im­ately 1,300 met­ric tons of chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als from the Mideast coun­try. Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime agreed last year to hand over the stock­pile, fol­low­ing a nerve-gas at­tack near Dam­as­cus that killed hun­dreds and spurred talk of Wash­ing­ton’s dir­ect in­ter­ven­tion in the Syr­i­an civil war.

The new De­fense De­part­ment “Strategy for Coun­ter­ing Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion,” re­leased Monday af­ter­noon, re­places 2006 Pentagon guid­ance for com­bat­ing these most sens­it­ive arms around the globe.

It em­phas­izes tak­ing a wider range of pre­vent­ive ac­tions aimed at re­du­cing and mit­ig­at­ing WMD threats earli­er, rather than grap­pling mil­it­ar­ily with crises after they oc­cur. The seni­or of­fi­cial said the ap­proach is already be­ing im­ple­men­ted, but the doc­u­ment should help to guide plan­ning and in­vest­ments go­ing for­ward.

“What steps can we take earli­er, as we of­ten say, ‘left of the prob­lem, left of crisis, left of boom, left even of ac­quis­i­tion, left of a coun­try ac­tu­ally ac­quir­ing a cap­ab­il­ity’?” the of­fi­cial said in de­scrib­ing the plan­ning ap­proach that the new strategy seeks to in­spire. “What can we bring to bear to shape that en­vir­on­ment?”

In the event that non-state act­ors seize con­trol over weapons of mass de­struc­tion some­where around the globe — as some fear could oc­cur someday in Pakistan, North Korea or else­where — the Pentagon would pur­sue “rap­id and de­cis­ive ac­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the new strategy.

Un­der such a scen­ario, the De­fense De­part­ment “will act in co­ordin­a­tion with part­ners whenev­er pos­sible, but will act uni­lat­er­ally if ne­ces­sary,” the doc­u­ment states.

The seni­or De­fense of­fi­cial on Monday re­jec­ted the idea that the strategy lays the ground­work for “pre-empt­ive” ac­tion to counter weapons of mass de­struc­tion, while not­ing that the U.S. pres­id­ent al­ways re­tains such op­tions.

The up­dated strategy puts “a fo­cus on pre­ven­tion and a fo­cus on tak­ing steps to make sure that risks don’t fully emerge,” the of­fi­cial said. “I would not in any way cor­rel­ate that to any pre­sump­tion on use of force.”

What We're Following See More »
WILL APPEAR TOGETHER TOMORROW
As Expected, Clinton Goes with Kaine
1 days ago
THE LATEST
SO MUCH FOR THE RATINGS BUMP
Convention Ratings Same as 2012
1 days ago
THE LATEST
8,000 DOCUMENTS
Wikileaks Releases Trove of DNC Docs
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Wikileaks published more than 8,000 documents purportedly taken from the Democratic National Committee Friday, just days before the start of the party's convention in Philadelphia. The documents included briefings on off-the-record fundraisers and candid photographs."

Source:
YES, WE KAINE?
Clinton Announcing VP Pick Today
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton "is widely expected to announce her choice" of vice president "in an email to supporters while on a campaign swing in Florida on Friday afternoon." The consensus: it'll be Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, although Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are also said to be in the running.

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
1 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
×