Attack not best way to stop Syria's chemical weapons, Clark says
This is a file photo of Clark, who headed all NATO forces from July 1997 to May 2000.
December 6th, 2012
12:47 PM ET

Attack not best way to stop Syria's chemical weapons, Clark says

The best way to ensure Syria doesn’t use chemical weapons against rebels is not military action, but offering Syria’s president a way out of the country - and persuading him to take it - a former NATO supreme commander says.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark told "CNN Newsroom" on Thursday that concerned nations could attack Syrian military targets, but such a move wouldn’t immediately halt every chemical weapons threat.

"You could take out the airfields if (the weapons) are uploaded … but nothing is going to be 100% effective," Clark said. "The most effective preventive weapon is to use this as greater leverage against the Russians and Chinese to cut all support for Bashar Assad, get him out of the country, get him into some kind of asylum situation somewhere, and sort this out."

Clark’s comments come amid reports that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons.

A number of key international players, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were meeting Thursday in Ireland to discuss the situation. Clinton is holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, among others.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that use of chemical weapons by Syria would be unacceptable.

NBC reported Wednesday night that Syria is loading chemical weapons into bombs. CNN has not confirmed the NBC report.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Thursday that "Syria would never use chemical weapons, even if it had them, against its own people." He made the remark to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.

Russia has blocked action against al-Assad at the United Nations, but diplomats say Moscow, which has insisted there should be no "regime change" in Syria, now increasingly doubts that al-Assad can survive in power.

Syria's government has been fighting rebels for more than a year, and Syria’s armed forces appear to be weakening. Russia has blamed the lack of a political solution on the Syrian opposition, saying it has been radicalized, includes members of al Qaeda, and refuses to engage in any negotiations until Assad steps down.

The United States also has expressed concerns about an increasing radicalization of some Syrian rebel groups. But the stronger the radical groups become, the more the United States worries that the fighting - not political efforts to find a solution - will decide the outcome in Syria. As a result, Washington has been pushing the opposition to unite.

“Even when it’s sorted out, we have to be concerned about the chemical weapons, because we don’t want them to fall into the hands of terrorists, and there are terrorist groups that have gone in there and associated with the (rebels),” Clark said.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Malham

    CNN has been banging the war drum about this on CNN Europe all day. Let's be clear.... It wasn't Russia and China that objected to a diplomatic solution, they objected to a military intervention, or what could lead to a military intervention (see Iraq/Libya). It was the West, particularly H. Clinton's rhetoric while Anan was at work, which laid all the blame on Assad and backed the regime into a corner.
    The whole Turkey (NATO) thing – Plane shot down over Syrian airspace (odd) – Mysterious grenades landing in Turkey fired by unknowns – reported as most likely the Syrian government – What! Why! It's all very strange and reeks of propaganda. And now a chemical weapons threat. Haven't we heard that before?
    NATO is looking for a reason to bomb Syria and has been from the start. Maybe so they can look "humanitarian" again and thus justify their ongoing existence.
    There is no doubt that Assad's regime is brutal but it is the responsibility of the international community to find a solution when civil war arises. Unnecessarily letting people die just for one or the other's ego/political gain should be unacceptable these days. And since when is it CNN's job to be NATO'S propaganda machine?

    December 6, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    Regime change no less at any cost, Israel-Saudi-US agenda. Get Turkey a NATO member on board. Russia and China would think twice before confronting US directly. Iran has its own problems.
    Should have been a cake walk. Proved wrong.
    What we have stirred up is spiraling out of control.
    Our direct military involvement would be catastrophic .

    December 7, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mark Olmedo

    We want to ask with all our hearts Pres. Assad to step down and give people a chance to appoint a leader.

    2BES2 University of Santo Tomas

    December 7, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    No we have seen wonders worked by the two wars Iraq & Afghanistan.
    And surely we should carry on. Nothing like getting embroiled in a couple more. Whats there to lose?

    December 7, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. ronvan

    Whilte I agree totally that the U.S.A. should NOT get involved with "boots on the ground", I tend to agree that if we can get Ass-ad to leave it could prevent further killings. However, that appears, to me, as letting him get off, scott free, after killing so many! IF he leaves and the world decides he can be tried for "crimes committed" would his "protection" in another country prevent this? And of course who will take over when he is killed or leaves? Could be just as bad!

    December 7, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
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