Mitchell Reports | December 06, 2012
>>> nbc news that the syrian military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin nerve gas into aerial bombs that could be dropped from dozens of syrian planes. as the fighting intensifies with the rebels closing in on damascus, it's a frightening sign of the regime's desperation. joining me to talk about it, ambassador nicholas burns , former undersecretary of state and ambassador to nato . mr. ambassador, thank you. i want to get your reaction, first, secretary of state clinton held an unscheduled meeting with the russian foreign minister in ireland. russia has been syria 's strong effort ally in all of this. is there anything that can be done to convince russia to pull back their support?
>> well, chris , i think that is a pertinent issue right now. this is a dangerous situation, obviously, when there's a -- at least the possibility of the use of chemical weapons by the syrian government or the possibility when that government falls those weapons might not be secure and there are terrorist groups , of course, some quite radical, active in syria . i think secretary clinton was right to meet with the russian foreign minister today. the third person joining that meeting was brahimi, the united nations ' diplomat, troubleshooter for syria . i imagine both secretary clinton and mr. brahimi would be lean on the russians to convince assad to leave power. he's finished in syria . there's no way he's going to emerge victorious. the only options for him are to lose and lose his life, most probability, or leave syria but certainly this civil war now more than 40,000 people dead, and with the latest problem with chemical weapons , the civil war has to be brought to an end.
>> now, ambassador, both president obama and secretary of state clinton warned chemical weapons are the red line on syria . i also want to play something that defense secretary leon panetta had to say in reaction to the reports about the preparation of chemical weapons . let play that and talk about what diplomatic options are left.
>> the president of the united states made very clear that there will be consequences. there will be conconsequences if the assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people. i'm not going to speculate or comment on what those potential consequences would be.
>> well, the obvious question is, ambassador, what could those potential consequences be? what are our options that remain?
>> well, first that is a direct warning by the united states government what you just heard, to the syrian government. so that is now on record. obviously it depends how this unfolds. there's no inev viability that the syrian government will choose to use chemical wellens, if they do, there will be pressure on the united states , turkey, collection of coalition of countries intervene to stop the use of chemical weapons . if, chris , in the other scenario rementioned before, the syrian government can no longer control the weapons the last thing in the world we would want to see is this nightmare scenario of a terrorist group with weapons of mass destruction , another possibility that could possibly in the future lead to theent duction of american military forces. the obama administration is right they don't want to go into syria . they have avoided a u.s. military intervention but chemical weapons changes everything in the calculation. the a divisive and dangerous moment in the syrian civil war .
>> it's scary, scary stuff. ambassador, i want to get your take on one other thing. secretary of state clinton had some comments about ambassador rice, someone who is speculated as her successor to secretary and of state . i want to play that for you.
>> it's important to remember what susan said was based on the information that had been given to every senior official. in our administration. and she made very clear in her appearances that the information was subject to change , as more facts were gathered and analyzed by the intelligence community and looked, as often the case, our understanding evolved over time. and we've done our best to keep the american people and the congress informed. that was her goal.
>> so obviously, secretary clinton offering a vigorous defense of susan rice , the context obviously being the attacks on benghazi and libya and the republican calls for more information. is there anything to be read from the fact that we have seen both president obama and secretary of state clinton go out of their way in a way to defend susan rice ? is there anything we should tea leave read from that fact?
>> well, chris , i think the president and secretary of state were right to defend per. these allegations are completely unfounded. they're unfair to her. she is a very talented, very effective, committed public servant. you know you know how those sunday show work when administration officials of either party go on, they're following talking points that the republican or democratic administration, whichever party's in power, has constructed and that's what susan did that morning. if any other administration official had been on the air that morning they would have said essentially more or less the same thing. i don't think the attacks are fair and she deserves a chance to be considered for any office that the president would like to appoint her to. you've seen a vigorous defense of her by the president and second clinton . i think they're right to do that.
>> ambassador nicholas burns , thank you.