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. uhadit

    The Coward Christian Americans Crusaders do not have the Guts to attack Syria for first they have to take on Russian/Chinese friends of Syria,

    December 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Assad's government has no friends. The citizens do. The entire region has to much to lose should Sarin gas be unleashed. Poison Chemicals have no conscious as far as who they kill!

      December 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard Stroker

      Now THAT is funny!!!

      You're a natural comedian, Achmed? Stand-up may be in your future.

      December 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • RhondaKelly07

      December 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • MNjonny

      Uhadit...How about you start taking some responsibility an deal with problems, now whos the coward? Get your bags packed an go make a difference.

      December 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. KW

    Sure, the "give everyone a flower" approach works wonders. Ask nicely? Do you live in California?

    December 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lolwut

    Why is this America's problem? These are no doubt the same people who spent the last decade cursing America as meddling "imperialists" and cheering for our downfall. Now suddenly American intervention is the answer? We can win with these lunatics no matter what we do, so let them solve their own problems.

    December 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julia

      They are also the same people who crossed the border into Iraq to launch suicide attacks against our troops.

      December 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • oakie

      Well said. Thank you.

      December 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jdoe

    A line must be drawn. Chemical weapons are a lot easier to make than nuclear weapons. Allowing it to proliferate put America in serious danger, far worse than 9/11.

    December 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wow

    He already said he will not leave and will die there. Now what? It may be easier to ask our alien friends hidden in the sky to take him away.

    December 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RhondaKelly07

      December 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dwp19542004

    as long as they use them on is all worth it then their would be change fo the better

    December 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dwp19542004

    as long as they use them on obama and his liberal brown shirts it would be worth it and then we would have change real change

    December 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GG

    So how do we go about getting the chemical weapons from Syria before either a) al-Assad uses them on his own population, or b) al-Assad falls and the weapons come under the control of radicals who hate the US as much as they hate al-Assad

    December 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. shines

    This is theatre. Wesley Clark, the "Butcher of Belgrade" acts the foil. The US and Israel want regime change. England, France and Turkey are along for the ride for various reasons. Chemical weapons are a pretext; y'know, war propaganda. CNN consumers can be gullible if they wish, but the Chinese and the Russians and Iranians are under no such delusions. Addressing the CNN consumer however: are you really so gullible as to fall for the WMD pretext AGAIN? And the liberals reveal themselves for the spineless worms they have always been. You hypocritically whined about war crimes when Bush used the lying pretexts to launch an illegal, aggressive war, but when a liberal holds the executive you look the other way. You either oppose illegal war on the gounds that it is unjust, unjustified, barbaric and illegal or you're just a neolunatic wearing an Obama tee shirt.

    December 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSM

      You didn't even read the article, did you?

      December 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • oakie

      I'll agree to some degree with the war propoganda part of your argument. It stinks of it. A reson. My question is why the eff do I care? I really don't. Let them kill each other and we can watch from the sidelines. If they eff with us then we reign hell fire on them. Simple as far as I am concerned.

      December 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. shines


    December 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NoTags

    Wesley Clark should be Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Withheld for family safety

    When will it be too late? After the attack has been ordered? After millions of innocent men women and children are massacred by the gas? If an attack is launched against civilians, there will be no time to respond. It will be too late. We must act now. Otherwise, we will be just as guilty as the Assad Regime for the murders of the innocent.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Middlebb

    Fascinating how after six years of criticizing George Bush for the Iraq War and removing a dictator who gassed 5K Kurds, it is the Democrats and Obama's top foreign policy priority to prevent gassing in Syria. Typical pathetic, liberal double-standard.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • dc

      That's a little disingenuous, isn't is?

      George Bush launched a major ground invasion without NATO support and settled us into a long-term military occupation. I wasn't in favor of invading Iraq in 2003 and I'm not in favor of direct military action in Syria, but to compare the two is just nonsense.

      December 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. the prophet

    The news is wrong its Russia that wants to take over Syria and its Russia that supplies the chemical weapons for their own benefit, Russia is Syria ally but me no mistake about Russia interest in Syria. There are sate secrets in place, this is not a topic for the average person.

    December 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • dc

      LOL. If you were actually privy to said secrets, you wouldn't be bringing it up on a CNN message board.


      December 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dc

    Not our fight. Sounds callous to say so, but this is not America's fight. I served in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq; as such I saw successful and unsuccessful peace enforcement and nation building. This one can't end well for NATO if it gets involved. There is no positive outcome from getting militarily involved in this; the rebels are no more pro-US/NATO than Assad. It's potentially high-cost with no payoff.

    If there is an international responsibility to be upheld here, it is on the part of the Arab League and its member states. Where are the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Egyptians, UAE, etc? This is their fight, not ours.

    December 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
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