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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
16 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×