Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part III

Part III: Partial transcript of remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Syria at the New America Foundation on Sept. 9, 2013:

I want to take this opportunity to address concerns now that even limited strikes could lead to even greater risks to the United States. So let me describe as plainly as I can what this action would be and, just as importantly, what it would not be.

The President has been clear about our purpose. These would be limited strikes to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons and to degrade their ability to do so again.

What do we mean by limited? This would not be the United States launching another war. As the President has said repeatedly, this would not be Iraq or Afghanistan. There will be no American boots on the ground. Period. Nor would it resemble Kosovo or Libya, which were sustained air campaigns. This would not be an open-ended effort.

As the President has said again repeatedly, this action would be deliberately limited in both time and scope.

Nor would this be new. The United States has engaged in limited strikes multiple times before. Recall President Reagan conducted airstrikes measured in hours against Libya in 1986. President Clinton conducted several days of cruise missile strikes against Iraq in 1998.

No two military actions are identical. Each has its own costs and benefits. But these previous engagements are proof that the United States is fully capable of conducting limited, defined, and proportional military actions without getting immeshed in a drawn-out conflict.

What do we mean by deterring and degrading the regime’s chemical weapons capabilities? Strikes could target a range of potential regime capacities to manage, deliver or develop chemical weapons.

Assad would discover that henceforth chemical weapons offer no battlefield advantage relative to their cost to use.

And if Assad is so brazen as to use chemical weapons again, he would know that we possess the ability to further degrade his capabilities.

So in short, this would not be an open-ended intervention in the Syrian civil war. These strikes would not aim to topple Assad or by themselves to effect regime change. 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.

Like many, I understand the public’s skepticism over using military force, particularly in this part of the world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many Americans weary of further military action, however limited.

But what the President is proposing is fundamentally different.

Unlike Iraq, we’re not betting on the existence of weapons of mass destruction. In Syria, we have the undeniable proof that chemical weapons have already been unleashed with horrific results. The entire world can see the bodies.

True, there are always risks that accompany the use of military force. That is why we’re taking a range of responsible measures to safeguard U.S. personnel and interests in the region as well as those of our allies and our partners. In this event, we do not assess that limited military strikes will unleash a spiral of unintended escalatory reactions in the region.

Assad and his allies would be more than foolish to take on the forces of the United States or our allies. They know that President Obama throughout his presidency has aptly demonstrated that he will not hesitate to defend our nation, our citizens, and our allies against direct threats to our security.

The limited strikes that the President plans are necessary and appropriate, which is why they have gone in support on both sides of the political aisle. House and Senate leaders have declared their full support. Foreign policy experts from the left, right, and center have strongly endorsed such actions. There aren’t many non-partisan issues left in Washington. This is one – or at least it should be.

President Obama has asked Congress for their support as the elected representatives of the American people. And because he knows that investing the legislative branch in our policy choices helps ensure the maximum potency and sustainability of U.S. policy. This decision reflects the President’s profound respect for the power of our democracy and his belief that the American people care to defend our most basic values and live up to our leadership in the world. And he knows, like all Americans, that we are strongest in the world when we speak clearly and stand together.

At the same time, the international community increasingly recognizes that this chemical weapons attack cannot be ignored.

The Arab League foreign ministers have called for “deterrent and necessary measures”.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has said the regime’s attack “requires a decisive action”.

The NATO Council has met twice and Secretary General [Anders Fogh] Rasmussen has affirmed the allies agree on the need for a “firm international response to avoid chemical weapons attacks in the future.”

Last Friday at the G-20 in St. Petersburg, there was unanimous agreement that chemical weapons have been used and that the international norm against their use must be upheld.

We gained unequivocal public support for anticipating U.S. military action from partners in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States joined together in a strong statement declaring that the Assad regime is responsible for the attack and that “those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.”

In subsequent days, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Croatia, Estonia, Denmark, Romania, and Qatar have signed on to that statement, and we expect more countries to add their support.

Over the weekend, the European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a statement on behalf of the European Union labeling the Aug. 21st attack a blatant violation of international law, a war crime, and a crime against humanity and calling for “a clear and strong response to ensure there is no impunity.”

Every day, more and more nations are coming to the same conclusion.



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2 Comments on “Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 – Part III

  1. Pingback: Syria: Chemical Weapons | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: National Security Advisor Susan Rice's remarks on Syria on Sept. 9, 2013 - Part II | What The Folly?!

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