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

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

With all the attention given to the prospect of limited military strikes against Syrian regime targets, I want to underscore that such action is by no means the sum total of our policy toward Syria. On the contrary, any such strikes would complement and reinforce our broader Syria strategy, which we continue to pursue with allies and partners.

Our overarching goal is to end the underlying conflict through a negotiated political transition in which Assad leaves power. The best way to achieve this is to keep the country and its institutions intact. But all parties have to be willing to negotiate.

So ours is a multifaceted strategy that puts pressure on the regime by isolating them and denying them resources, builds up the civilian and military opposition, and secures diplomatic agreement with other key countries on the principles of transition while assisting those who need immediate relief.

Thanks to the generosity of the American people, we lead the humanitarian effort to save lives, having provided the Syrian people more than $1 billion worth of food, shelter, medical assistance, clean water, and relief supplies. In fact, some of the medical supplies used to treat the victims in Ghouta came from the United States.

We continue to upgrade and increase our support for moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition. In coordination with our international partners, we’re building the capacity of local councils and helping civilian leaders to deliver essential services to those in need. We’re helping the opposition better serve the needs of the Syrian people.
And we’re expanding our assistance to the Supreme Military Council to strengthen its cohesion and its ability to defend against the repressive regime that kills civilians with abandon.

Limited strikes that degrade Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons and thus to kill on a horrific scale with impunity can also shake his confidence in the viability of his relentless pursuit of a military solution.

But 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.

A cease-fire and a political solution are also as a practical manner the only way to eliminate completely the Syrian chemical weapons threat. That’s why we continue to increase pressure on the Assad regime to come to the table and negotiate.

Notably, during our discussions in St. Petersburg, we sensed more urgency among key players to bring the parties to the negotiating table to jumpstart a political transition. The United States shares that sense of urgency and our intention is to renew our push for the U.N.-sponsored Geneva process following any limited strikes.

Just as limited strikes would complement our broader Syria policy, so too would they reinforce our broader Middle East strategy.

The United States will not take sides in sectarian struggles. We cannot and will not impose our will on the democratic development of other nations.

But as President Obama has made clear, we can and we will stand up for certain principles in this pivotal region. We seek a Middle East where citizens can enjoy their universal rights – to live in dignity, freedom, and prosperity, to choose their own leaders and determine their own future free from fear, violence, and intimidation.

Standing up to the Syrian regime’s barbaric use of chemical weapons will affirm the most basic of principles – that nations cannot unleash the world’s most horrific weapons against innocent civilians, especially children.

And failing to stand up to these weapons could impel the Arab Spring towards an ever darker and more ominous term.

Rather, we seek a Middle East where violent extremism, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction do not threaten our allies, partners, and Americans. We seek the stability of a region that is vital to the energy that helps fuel our global economy.

Countering Syria’s use of chemical weapons shows that the United States will act to prevent some of the world’s worst weapons in human history from becoming the new norm. It will demonstrate that America means what we say. It will make clear to Assad and his allies, Hezbollah and Iran, that they should not test the resolve of the United States of America.

This has implications for our efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. 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. And as the President has said, all options remain on the table.

For our efforts to succeed, however, the leaders in Tehran must know that the United States mean what we say.

If we do not respond when Iran’s close ally, Syria, uses weapons of mass destruction, what message does that send to Iran? It risks suggesting that the international community cannot muster the will to act when necessary. It risks suggesting that serious threats to regional and global stability will be left to fester. It risks suggesting that egregious violations of international norms do not have consequences.

Make no mistake. The decision our nation makes in the coming days is being watched in capitals around the world, especially in Tehran and Pyongyang. They’re watching to see whether the United States will stand up for the world we’re trying to build for our children and future generations. And if we fail to act, they will be emboldened to push harder for the world that only they want – a future where more of the world’s most dangerous weapons fall into the most dangerous hands. That is not the Middle East – or the world – that we seek.

On the contrary, we seek a Middle East where Israelis and Palestinians live in two states side-by-side in peace and security. Yet, Assad’s indiscriminate use of chemical weapons increases the possibility that they could someday be used against Israel and Palestinians. This only heightens the sense of vulnerability many in Israel feel about the turmoil that engulfs their nation, and it might make it even harder for Israelis and Palestinians to take the risks for peace.

The bottom line is that standing up to serious use of chemical weapons advances our broader goals in the Middle East.

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.

In closing, allow me to speak not just as the President’s National Security Advisor but also as a parent, a mother. Time and again, we’ve seen what happens when the world fails to respond to horrific abuses on the scale we saw in Damascus. We’ve seen the even greater barbarism that can follow, whether in Srebrenica or Rwanda or Darfur.

I’ve been to more than my share of war zones. Each is horrible and uniquely tragic. But this most recent atrocity is particularly gut wrenching. And unlike those tragedies of earlier decades, we have the technology on our computers and our smart phones to see the full horrors unfold in real-time. Children lined up in shrouds, their voices forever silenced. Devastated mothers and father kissing their children good-bye, some pulling the white sheet up tight around their beautiful faces as if tucking them in for the last time.

There are no words of condemnation strong enough to capture such infinite cruelty. But where words may fail us, action must not.

Every adult American, every member of Congress, should watch those videos for themselves, see that suffering, look at the eyes of those men and women, those babies and dare to turn away and forsake them. Watch those videos and imagine the months and years ahead, where an emboldened Assad and those who follow his example carry out more attacks, forcing us to witness more and more such depravity.

I believe you will come to the same conclusion as the President and so many countries around the world that this cannot stand – not in the 21st century, not given the values and principles that we as Americans hold dear.

As the one indispensable leader in the world, the United States of America can and must take action carefully, responsibly, purposefully to reduce the chances of such an outrage happening again.

Thank you very much.

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

  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 I | What The Folly?!

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