Dempsey: Securing Syria’s Chemical Weapons Is ‘Feasible’

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey during a briefing at the Pentagon

Office of the Secretary of Defense

AA Font size + Print

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey during a briefing at the Pentagon

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says securing Syria’s chemical stockpile will be ‘challenging’ during the ongoing civil war, but it’s ‘feasible.’ By Stephanie Gaskell

Part of the deal that avoided a U.S.-led military strike against the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons was an agreement to secure or destroy Syria’s stockpile – something that many say will be nearly impossible to do in the midst of a civil war. But on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that it’s ‘feasible.’

“It’s a very challenging environment,” Dempsey said during a press briefing at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Indicators are at this point, though, that the regime does have control of its stockpile. And so long as they agree to the framework which causes them to be responsible for the security, the movement, the protection of the investigators or the inspectors, then I think that the answer to your question is, it is feasible, but we’ve got to make sure we keep our eye on all of those things.”

The U.S. military is providing some planning assistance to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, which is the lead agency in charge of securing, destroying or moving Syria’s chemical weapons.

“The framework calls for it to be controlled, destroyed, or moved, and I think, in some combination … it is feasible. But those details will have to be worked by the OPCW,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey and Hagel both brushed off criticism from former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, who differ on whether to launch a military strike against Syria for using chemical weapons but agree that President Obama should not have consulted Congress first. The two spoke at a forum Tuesday night at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“It would weaken him” if Congress voted no, Gates said. “It would weaken our country. It would weaken us in the eyes of our allies, as well as our adversaries around the world.” Panetta agreed and pointed out that “Iran is paying very close attention to what we’re doing. There’s no question in my mind they’re looking at the situation, and what they are seeing right now is an element of weakness.” But he went a step further saying Obama should haven’t “subcontracted” the decision to strike to Congress. “Mr. President, this Congress has a hard time agreeing as to what the time of day is,” Panetta said.

Still, the two former defense secretaries do not agree on what course of action to take in Syria. Gates, who famously said that any military leader who ever launches another large-scale ground war “should have his head examined,” said Obama’s plan to “blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple days, to underscore or validate a point or a principle, is not a strategy.” Gates said if the U.S. launches a military attack against Syria, “in the eyes of a lot of people we become the villain instead of Assad.”

“Haven’t Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya taught us something about the unintended consequences of military action once it’s launched?” he said.

But Panetta said “when the president of the United States draws a red line, the credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word.” Once Obama decided to attack Syria for using chemical weapons, “then he should have directed limited action, going after Assad, to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word … we back it up.”

Hagel said his predecessors have a right to their opinion, but “obviously I don’t agree with their perspectives. And I again understand what they’re saying, but as I have said a number of times in the last two weeks on Capitol Hill, I was part of the decision and the process that led up to the president’s decision. I support those decisions.”

In the meantime, Dempsey said the U.S. military would “maintain the credible threat of force [against Syria] should the diplomatic track fail.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: Supply Chain Insecurity

    Federal organizations rely on state-of-the-art IT tools and systems to deliver services efficiently and effectively, and it takes a vast ecosystem of organizations, individuals, information, and resources to successfully deliver these products. This issue brief discusses the current threats to the vulnerable supply chain - and how agencies can prevent these threats to produce a more secure IT supply chain process.

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.