Saying he strongly supports President Barack Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization for the use of force in Syria, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said inaction in Syria would embolden Iran, North Korea, and the Assad regime in Syria while undermining America’s credibility abroad.
“A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments–including the President’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Hagel said. “The word of the United States must mean something. It is vital currency in foreign relations and international and allied commitments.”
Hagel said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is “not only an assault on humanity–it is a serious threat to America’s national security interests and those of our closest allies.”
“The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons poses grave risks to our friends and partners along Syria’s borders–including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq,” Hagel said. “If Assad is prepared to use chemical weapons against his own people, we have to be concerned that terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which has forces in Syria supporting the Assad regime, could acquire them.”
Hagel also said the country “cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use chemical weapons.”
He said the “Department of Defense has developed military options to achieve these objectives, and we have positioned U.S. assets throughout the region to successfully execute this mission.”
“We believe we can achieve them with a military action that would be limited in duration and scope,” he said. “General Dempsey and I have assured the President that U.S. forces will be ready to act whenever the President gives the order.”
Hagel said France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other “friends in the region” have “assured us of their strong support for U.S. action.”
He again emphasized that inaction could embolden the Assad regime “to carry out even more devastating chemical weapons attacks.”
“Chemical weapons make no distinction between combatants and innocent civilians, and inflict the worst kind of indiscriminate suffering, as we have recently seen,” he said.