Dempsey: Securing Syria’s Chemical Weapons Is “˜Feasible’

Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
Sept. 19, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

Part of the deal that avoided a U.S.-led mil­it­ary strike against the As­sad re­gime for the use of chem­ic­al weapons was an agree­ment to se­cure or des­troy Syr­ia’s stock­pile — something that many say will be nearly im­possible to do in the midst of a civil war. But on Wed­nes­day, Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey said that it’s ‘feas­ible.’

“It’s a very chal­len­ging en­vir­on­ment,” De­mp­sey said dur­ing a press brief­ing at the Pentagon with De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel. “In­dic­at­ors are at this point, though, that the re­gime does have con­trol of its stock­pile. And so long as they agree to the frame­work which causes them to be re­spons­ible for the se­cur­ity, the move­ment, the pro­tec­tion of the in­vest­ig­at­ors or the in­spect­ors, then I think that the an­swer to your ques­tion is, it is feas­ible, but we’ve got to make sure we keep our eye on all of those things.”

The U.S. mil­it­ary is provid­ing some plan­ning as­sist­ance to the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pre­ven­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, which is the lead agency in charge of se­cur­ing, des­troy­ing or mov­ing Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons.

“The frame­work calls for it to be con­trolled, des­troyed, or moved, and I think, in some com­bin­a­tion … it is feas­ible. But those de­tails will have to be worked by the OP­CW,” De­mp­sey said.

De­mp­sey and Hagel both brushed off cri­ti­cism from former De­fense Sec­ret­ar­ies Robert Gates and Le­on Pan­etta, who dif­fer on wheth­er to launch a mil­it­ary strike against Syr­ia for us­ing chem­ic­al weapons but agree that Pres­id­ent Obama should not have con­sul­ted Con­gress first. The two spoke at a for­um Tues­day night at South­ern Meth­od­ist Uni­versity in Dal­las.

“It would weak­en him” if Con­gress voted no, Gates said. “It would weak­en our coun­try. It would weak­en us in the eyes of our al­lies, as well as our ad­versar­ies around the world.” Pan­etta agreed and poin­ted out that “Ir­an is pay­ing very close at­ten­tion to what we’re do­ing. There’s no ques­tion in my mind they’re look­ing at the situ­ation, and what they are see­ing right now is an ele­ment of weak­ness.” But he went a step fur­ther say­ing Obama should haven’t “sub­con­trac­ted” the de­cision to strike to Con­gress. “Mr. Pres­id­ent, this Con­gress has a hard time agree­ing as to what the time of day is,” Pan­etta said.

Still, the two former de­fense sec­ret­ar­ies do not agree on what course of ac­tion to take in Syr­ia. Gates, who fam­ously said that any mil­it­ary lead­er who ever launches an­oth­er large-scale ground war “should have his head ex­amined,” said Obama’s plan to “blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple days, to un­der­score or val­id­ate a point or a prin­ciple, is not a strategy.” Gates said if the U.S. launches a mil­it­ary at­tack against Syr­ia, “in the eyes of a lot of people we be­come the vil­lain in­stead of As­sad.”

“Haven’t Ir­aq, Afgh­anistan and Libya taught us something about the un­in­ten­ded con­sequences of mil­it­ary ac­tion once it’s launched?” he said.

But Pan­etta said “when the pres­id­ent of the United States draws a red line, the cred­ib­il­ity of this coun­try is de­pend­ent on him back­ing up his word.” Once Obama de­cided to at­tack Syr­ia for us­ing chem­ic­al weapons, “then he should have dir­ec­ted lim­ited ac­tion, go­ing after As­sad, to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word … we back it up.”

Hagel said his pre­de­cessors have a right to their opin­ion, but “ob­vi­ously I don’t agree with their per­spect­ives. And I again un­der­stand what they’re say­ing, but as I have said a num­ber of times in the last two weeks on Cap­it­ol Hill, I was part of the de­cision and the pro­cess that led up to the pres­id­ent’s de­cision. I sup­port those de­cisions.”

In the mean­time, De­mp­sey said the U.S. mil­it­ary would “main­tain the cred­ible threat of force [against Syr­ia] should the dip­lo­mat­ic track fail.”

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from De­fense One. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

What We're Following See More »
“CHAIR WITH ONLY ONE FULL TIME COMMITMENT”
Rep. Ellison Confirms He Will Quit Congress If Elected DNC Chair
2 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is currently the favorite to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he has confirmed that if he is elected come February, he will resign his seat in Congress. In a statement from Ellison this morning, he says that the Democratic Party needs "a chair with only one full time commitment."

TO BE ANNOUNCED IN COMING DAYS
Trump To Nominate Gen. John Kelly For Homeland Security
39 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump has chosen Gen. James Kelly to be his secretary of homeland security, making Kelly the third general tapped by Trump to serve in his administration. The official announcement is likely to come in the next couple of days. Kelly, who did not endorse Trump during the campaign, "was the commander of U.S. Southern Command until earlier this year."

Source:
2018 WATCH
Iowa Gov. Branstad Nominated For Ambassador To China
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Iowa Republican Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor in American history, has accepted President-elect Donald Trump's offer to serve as ambassador to China, Bloomberg reported late Tuesday. Branstad has a longstanding relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and backed Trump during the election. If he's confirmed, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would become the Hawkeye State's first female governor and could run for a full term in 2018. Iowa does not place term limits on its governors.

NO SURPRISE HERE
Trump Is TIME’s Person of the Year
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS
INCLUDES WAIVER FOR MATTIS
Congress Releases Stopgap Funding Bill
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Congressional negotiators released a stopgap spending bill Tuesday night to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday and to fund federal agencies and programs through April 28." The 70-page continuing resolution includes $170 million to aid Flint, Michigan's water supply, and a waiver that would allow Ret. Gen. James Mattis to assume the role of secretary of Defense.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login