Obama's Syria Problem: 'We Didn't Have a Strategy'
In a SPIEGEL interview, former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, 85, discusses President Barack Obama's tepid response to the civil war in Syria and allegations that chemical weapons have been deployed in the country.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Brzezinski, you always plead for a foreign policy strategy that combines the national interests of the United States with a moral cause. Applying that concept to Syria, what would you suggest?
SPIEGEL: Was this another example of the discrepancy between President Obama's rhetoric and policies?
Brzezinski: In this particular case, it was not even rhetoric. It was just a flat schoolmaster-type statement without a strategy for its implementation.
SPIEGEL: Israel claimed last week it could prove that the Syrian government has deployed chemical weapons. Great Britain and France have also given similar warnings. On Thursday, United States Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said the army had in fact used small amounts of chemical weapons. If he did, then Assad would have crossed a red line drawn by President Obama this past summer. Will the US now be forced to intervene?
Brzezinski: If use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons is confirmed, we should try to see if China and Russia might then support a UN resolution proposing internationally supervised elections in which everyone could seek the presidency. It would be a face-saving solution which Assad would probably reject. Then China and Russia might finally endorse collective action.
SPIEGEL: Do you see an opportunity of convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin to let Assad fall?
SPIEGEL: Are you saying that the situation in Syria is too complex to intervene?
Brzezinski: "Complex" is an understatement. It is an incredibly messy situation. Until the recent reporting by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, I have not read a serious analysis or description which would give you a breakdown of the nature of the various resistance groups. We know that some of them are Salafists who have the support of the Saudis. We know that groups from Iraq are involved, we know that the Kurds are involved, and we know that a significant number of Syrian refugees flee to Turkey. The point is that it is a comprehensive mess in the context of which you are not in the position to make good choices. Simply plunging into the unknown would not be all that wise. And if we did it anyway, who would be on our side?
Interview conducted by Marc Hujer and Gerhard Spoerl
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- Illustration Michael Pleesz
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