Former Clinton Defense Secretary: ‘Highly Unlikely’ Syria Will Dismantle Its Chemical Weapons

September 14th, 2013 2:51 PM

The media are predictably giddy about an agreement being reached in Geneva between the United States and Russia concerning Syria.

Former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen was not very optimistic Friday telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he felt it was “highly unlikely” Bashar al-Assad would dismantle his chemical weapons.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: I want to bring in the former defense secretary William Cohen now who is well acquainted with reigning in WMD and with Sergei Lavrov's skill as a negotiator. Secretary Cohen, thanks for being with us. You’ve dealt with Mr. Lavrov in the past. You called him a very skilled tough negotiator. These discussions now going to a third day tomorrow. Can you give any insight into how this happens? What’s going on behind closed doors? How does it actually work?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Secretary Kerry is not dealing with a very strong hand, frankly. And I think the Russians are prepared to exploit that. He is -- Secretary Kerry is insisting that we reserve the right to use military force against the Syrian forces, and Mr. Lavrov is going to say that’s got to, preconditions got to go.

So, it looks as if we are going to yield on that particular point if there is a hope for getting a U.N. Security Council resolution. The French and the British and the U.S. have insisted upon having some kind of a trigger namely if they don't comply with the dismantling of their weapons that we can take military action. But I think that's unlikely.

I'm hopeful that something good will come out of this, but frankly, unless you have an overall peace settlement, the notion you are going to have of dismantling of chemical weapons during a civil war, I think, is unrealistic.

So, it looks as if this is a long struggle to gain control of them, identify them while they’re moving them around, et cetera. So, I don't know that the United States has a very strong hand at this point. I hope that secretary Kerry can play it for what it is.

COOPER: So, you don't believe that it's really possible for Syria to give up their chemical weapons for international inspectors to be on the ground, to secure sites and ultimately destroy these weapons in the midst of a civil war? I know David Kay says it’s never been done before. It’s possible, but it’s never been done before. You’re saying it’s very unlikely that can even be done.

COHEN: I think it's very unlikely, highly unlikely that it can be done. One hopes, hope springs eternal, but I doubt it very much.

COOPER: Because of the danger on the ground?

COHEN: The danger on the ground. You’ve got rebels who are going to resist any kind of a settlement at this point. They are disheartened by the fact that the United States has backed away from using force. The president has threatened the use of force, but it has to be a credible military threat. The fact is there’s underwhelming support from the Congress and the country for the use of force. I think the Russians are exploiting this. President Putin has gone from being the prince of darkness to the pied piper of peace. That may last for a while. He can enjoy that particular bump in his popularity domestically and perhaps internationally. But I doubt very much whether the Russians are ever going to agree to a situation where the United States can use force with the support of the U.N. against Syria simply because of non-compliance. I think that’s not going to happen.

I think what the Russians will do, will say, “Drop your preconditions of threatening force against Syria. Drop your support for the rebels, and then we can talk about an overall peace settlement.” And maybe that will involve since secretary general has indicated that Assad may be guilty of crimes against humanity, perhaps part of the deal will be giving Assad and his family asylum in Russia with Mr. Snowden.

It turns out the agreement Kerry and Lavrov reached Saturday does indeed not include any threat of force if Syria doesn't dismantle its weapons.

As such, why will it?

(HT Right Pundit)