Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part II
Part II: Partial transcript of remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Syria at the New America Foundation on Sept. 9, 2013:
Equally, every attack serves to unravel the long-established commitment of nations to renounce chemical weapons use.
189 countries representing 98% of the world’s population are party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, acquisition or use of these weapons.
The United States Senate approved that convention by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, binding America to a global consensus and affirming that we do not tolerate the use or possession of chemical weapons.
So the Assad regime’s attack is not only a direct affront to that norm but also a threat to global security, including the security of the United States.
Failing to respond to this outrage also threatens our national security. Failing to respond means more and more Syrians will die from Assad’s poisonous stockpiles. Failing to respond makes our allies and partners in the region tempting targets of Assad’s future attacks. Failing to respond increases the risk of violence and instability as citizens across the Middle East and North Africa continue to struggle for their universal rights. Failing to respond brings us closer to the day when terrorists might gain and use chemical weapons against Americans abroad and at home. Failing to respond damages the international principle reflected in two multilateral treaties and basic human decency that such weapons must never again be used anywhere in the world. Failing to respond to the use of chemical weapons risks opening the door to other weapons of mass destruction and emboldening the mad men who would use them.
We cannot allow terrorists bent on destruction or a nuclear North Korea or an aspiring nuclear Iran to believe for one minute that we are shying away from our determination to back up our longstanding warnings.
If we begin to erode the moral outrage of gassing children in their bed, we open ourselves up to even more fearsome consequences.
Moreover, failing to respond to this brazen attack could indicate that the United States is not prepared to use the full range of tools necessary to keep our nation secure.
Any President – Republican or Democrat – must have recourse to all elements of American power to design and implement our national security policy, whether diplomatic, economic, or military.
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 interests.
America’s ability to rally coalitions and lead internationally could be undermined.
Other global hotspots might flare up if belligerents believe the United States cannot be counted to enforce the most basic and widely accepted international norms.
Most disturbingly, it would send a perverse message to those who seek to use the world’s worst weapons that you can use these weapons blatantly and just get away with it.
Now, I know that many Americans are horrified by the images from Damascus and are concerned about the devastating broader consequences. But while they believe the world should act, they are not sure military action is the right tool at this time. Let me address this important argument.
The reason President Obama decided to pursue limited strike is that we and others have already exhausted a host of other measures aimed at changing Assad’s calculus and his willingness to use chemical weapons. As the Aug. 21st mass casualty attack makes clear, these efforts have not succeeded.
Since the beginning of the regime’s brutal violence against its own people more than 2.5 years ago, we have consistently backed the United Nations’ diplomatic process and urged the parties to the negotiating table, fully cognizant that a political solution is the best way to end this civil conflict and the Syrian regime’s torment of its own people.
We collaborated with our European allies to impose robust, comprehensive sanctions to pressure the Assad regime. We supported the creation of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry to document atrocities and deter perpetrators in Syria.
When Assad started using chemical weapons on a small scale multiple times, we publicized compelling evidence of the regime’s use, sharing it with Congress, the United Nations, and the American public.
At our urging over months, Russia and Iran repeatedly reinforced our warnings to Assad.
For the last year, we admonished Syria directly. We all sent the message again and again: “Don’t do it.” But they did it, first on a small scale in a manner hard for the world to discern.
In response, we augmented our non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition and expanded the nature and scope of our support to the Supreme Military Council.
We pressed for more than six months to gain the United Nations investigation team unfettered access to Syria on the logic that the presence of such a team in the country might deter future attacks or, if not, at minimum it could establish a shared evidentiary base that might finally compel Russia and Iran – itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987 and 1988 – to pull the plug on a regime that gasses its own people.
But then, when U.N. investigators finally entered the country, the regime launched the largest chemical weapons attack in a quarter century while the inspectors staged on the other side of town. For five days thereafter, the regime stalled and shelled the affected areas to destroy critical evidence.
So only after pursuing a wide-range of non-military measures to prevent and halt chemical weapons use did President Obama conclude that a limited military strike is the right way to deter Assad from continuing to employ chemical weapons like any conventional weapon of war.
The fact is President Obama has consistently demonstrated his commitment to multilateral diplomacy. He would much prefer the backing of the United Nations Security Council to uphold the international ban against the use of chemical weapons, whether in the form of sanctions, accountability, or authorizing the use of force.
But let’s be realistic. It’s just not going to happen now. Believe me, I know. I was there for all of those U.N. debates and negotiations on Syria. I lived it and it was shameful.
Three times the Security Council took up resolutions to condemn lesser violence by the Syrian regimes. Three times we negotiated for weeks over the most watered-down language imaginable. And three times Russia and China double-vetoed almost meaningless resolutions.
Similarly, in the past two months, Russia has blocked two resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons that did not even ascribe blame to any party. Russia opposed two mere press statements expressing concern about their use.
A week after the Aug. 21st gas attack, the United Kingdom presented a resolution that included a referral of war crimes in Syria to the International Criminal Court but again the Russians opposed it as they have every form of accountability in Syria.
For all these reasons, the President has concluded that it is in our national security interest to conduct limited strikes against the Assad regime.
- New America Foundation: Ambassador Susan Rice on the Situation in Syria – Sept. 9, 2013
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part I
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part II
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part III
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part IV
- WhatTheFolly.com: Syria: Chemical Weapons