Fareed speaks with CNN about Syria and Russia’s proposal that it put its chemical weapons under international control.
If the U.N. Security Council were to pass a Russian resolution with Russian support, Chinese support trying to destroy Syria's chemical weapons' stockpiles, that would certainly offer the president of the United States a way out of this current crisis. He could come out and say, look, there are not going to be any more chemical weapons attacks if all of this is serious.
He could. It’s a blow for the administration's strategy, though, because they really wanted to use this attack as a way of sending a signal, a very strong signal, about the use of chemical weapons. They point out, Secretary Kerry says, that al-Assad has used these weapons perhaps in the teens, that is several times.
It’s also clear that this was an occasion the administration was going to use to shift the balance of power away from al-Assad and toward the rebels. So they lose that option and they lose that ability to degrade al-Assad's air power, in particular six airfields they were planning to strike.
The whole thing, however, does demonstrate something very striking. That is, if you take this Syrian acceptance of this Russian proposal and you add to it al-Assad's interview [with Charlie Rose] that we have seen clips of, what I'm struck by is quite different from Saddam Hussein or many Arab leaders. Al-Assad is not engaging in a lot of bravado or kind of crazy talk if you think of Gadhafi's interview on the eve of that campaign. Al-Assad has been very cool, very calculating, very clever in what arguments he uses.
In the interview, he talked about how there wasn't public support for this. He reminded people of the Colin Powell speech at the United Nations. He talked about the fact that the rebels are linked to al Qaeda. This was not a kind of bizarre rant about American imperialism and Israel. It was clearly designed to weaken the American public's support. And so, you add to it this acceptance of a proposal, and it all strikes me as suggesting that the Syrians are playing a very clever game of counter offensive.
You’ve been skeptical of a lot of this current crisis, on what the U.S. needs to do. What would you want to hear from the president that would reassure you, that would convince you it's the right thing to go ahead and launch these air strikes against targets in Syria?
I think the most important thing with any strategy is what is your objective? What are we trying to do here? And once you figure that out, you can then use whatever tools you have. But you also then know when you've achieved that objective. And I think the problem with the administration's strategy is it's not entirely clear what the objective is. John Kerry calls this a Munich moment, invoking the path to World War II and Adolf Hitler's attempt to conquer the world. But if it's a Munich moment, are we really going to do two days of air strikes that the president describes as a shot across the bow, which is really a warning?
So, you know, if he is going to pursue a very limited – almost symbolic – strike, it needs to be clear that is what the strategy is, what the objective is, when we will know that we have achieved it, and when we can then say, this is done or is there a much broader strategy with much broader objectives at work. I think that this is partly why there isn't as much public support, because people wonder which of these two strategies is being pursued.