Obama Adviser: Syrian Transitional Body “˜Only Sustainable’ Way to End Bloodshed

Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 9, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­id­ent Obama’s na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­viser in­sisted in a Monday speech that the cre­ation of a post-As­sad trans­ition­al au­thor­ity in Syr­ia would be the “only” long-term means of end­ing blood­shed in the Middle East­ern na­tion’s on­go­ing civil war.

“Ul­ti­mately, the only sus­tain­able way to end the suf­fer­ing in Syr­ia is through a ne­go­ti­ated polit­ic­al solu­tion, start­ing with the cre­ation of a rep­res­ent­at­ive trans­ition­al au­thor­ity that or­gan­izes elec­tions and meets the needs of the Syr­i­an people,” said Susan Rice, who has served as the pres­id­ent’s top se­cur­ity aide since Ju­ly. “A cease-fire and a polit­ic­al solu­tion are also, as a prac­tic­al mat­ter, the only way to elim­in­ate com­pletely the Syr­i­an chem­ic­al weapons threat.”

Still, Rice re­it­er­ated ad­min­is­tra­tion state­ments that the pro­posed lim­ited U.S. mil­it­ary strikes against tar­gets re­lated to Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons would not seek to elim­in­ate Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad, who has led the na­tion since his fath­er’s death in 2000.

“These strikes would not aim to topple As­sad or by them­selves to ef­fect re­gime change,” she said, speak­ing be­fore an audi­ence at the New Amer­ica Found­a­tion think tank in Wash­ing­ton. “Do­ing so would re­quire a much lar­ger and sus­tained mil­it­ary cam­paign, put­ting Amer­ic­an forces in the cen­ter of this civil con­flict. And as Pres­id­ent Obama has made clear, it is neither wise nor ne­ces­sary to do so.”

Obama has called for a re­stric­ted at­tack by U.S. armed forces in re­sponse to an Aug. 21 gas at­tack in the Dam­as­cus sub­urb of Ghouta, which his ad­min­is­tra­tion says res­ul­ted in more than 1,400 ci­vil­ian deaths, in­clud­ing many chil­dren. Con­gress is de­bat­ing the pres­id­ent’s push for a bi­par­tis­an res­ol­u­tion au­thor­iz­ing the mil­it­ary ac­tion.

Rice on Monday aimed to bol­ster the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s do­mest­ic and in­ter­na­tion­al cam­paign to gen­er­ate sup­port for se­lec­ted mis­sile strikes aimed in­stead at pun­ish­ing the re­gime. At­tack ob­ject­ives would be to de­grade the Syr­i­an mil­it­ary’s ca­pa­city for ad­di­tion­al chem­ic­al at­tacks, and de­ter As­sad or oth­ers in the re­gion from any fur­ther use of weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

The White House ad­viser also overtly tied the pro­posed strikes to a de­sire to send a mes­sage to Ir­an not to de­vel­op a nuc­le­ar-weapon ca­pa­city.

“Coun­ter­ing Syr­ia’s use of chem­ic­al weapons … has im­plic­a­tions for our ef­forts to pre­vent a nuc­le­ar-armed Ir­an,” Rice said. “The policy of the United States is clear: We will not al­low Ir­an to ac­quire a nuc­le­ar weapon. With al­lies and part­ners, we con­tin­ue to pur­sue a com­pre­hens­ive strategy to pre­vent Ir­an from ob­tain­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon, in­clud­ing dip­lomacy, pres­sure and in­creas­ing sanc­tions.”

It also could send a mes­sage more broadly to the re­gion and the world, she said.

“Stand­ing up to Syr­ia’s use of chem­ic­al weapons ad­vances our broad­er goals in the Middle East,” Rice told the audi­ence. “Con­versely, by al­low­ing As­sad to act with im­pun­ity, everything else be­comes even harder, from coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism to de­fend­ing hu­man rights, from pro­mot­ing peace to en­sur­ing our en­ergy se­cur­ity, and pre­vent­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion.”

Wash­ing­ton’s former am­bas­sad­or to the United Na­tions, Rice im­plied that if the United States failed to re­spond mil­it­ar­ily to the Ghouta at­tack, some around the world might ques­tion U.S. re­solve to re­tali­ate with a “full range” of weaponry avail­able in re­sponse to fu­ture WMD at­tacks. This ap­peared to be a veiled ref­er­ence to Wash­ing­ton’s cred­ib­il­ity in de­ter­ring nuc­le­ar war by threat­en­ing a nuc­le­ar re­sponse.

“Re­ject­ing the lim­ited mil­it­ary ac­tion that Pres­id­ent Obama strongly sup­ports would raise ques­tions around the world as to wheth­er the United States is truly pre­pared to em­ploy the full range of its power to de­fend our na­tion­al in­terest,” Rice said. “Oth­er glob­al hot spots might flare up if bel­li­ger­ents be­lieve the United States can­not be coun­ted on to en­force the most ba­sic and widely ac­cep­ted in­ter­na­tion­al norms.”

Rice sum­mar­ized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­tel­li­gence case for con­clud­ing that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment was to blame for the Aug. 21 chem­ic­al at­tack, but did not of­fer ad­di­tion­al evid­ence or elab­or­a­tion that some pun­dits are call­ing on the White House to di­vulge as a way of strength­en­ing its pub­lic case for re­tali­ation.

Al­though world lead­ers at the G20 eco­nom­ic sum­mit last week in St. Peters­burg failed to un­an­im­ously of­fer Obama back­ing for his pro­posed mil­it­ary ac­tion, Rice sought to un­der­score grow­ing glob­al sup­port for the lim­ited strikes.

She rattled off 10 G20 na­tions — from Aus­tralia to the United King­dom — that have blamed As­sad for the chem­ic­al at­tacks and signed onto a state­ment say­ing that “those who per­pet­rated these crimes must be held ac­count­able.”

An­oth­er nine na­tions, in­clud­ing Ger­many and Qatar, sub­sequently en­dorsed the state­ment.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

TAKATA RECALLS COULD TAKE YEARS TO COMPLETE
Airbag Recalls Target 12 Million Automobiles
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."

Source:
INVESTIGATION LEADS TO LEAKER’S RESIGNATION
Secret Service Disciplines 41 Agents Over Chaffetz Leak
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.

Source:
#NEVERTRUMP’S LONELY LEADER
Romney Talks Cost of His Futile Anti-Trump Fight
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Source:
CONGRESS DIVIDED ON DEBT CRISIS PLAN
Puerto Rico Relief Stalled on the Hill
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."

Source:
×