Mitchell Reports | December 07, 2012
>>> some diplomats saying a chemical threat from syria could be imminent. secretary of state hillary clinton repeated syria 's president assad must go in any political arrangement and warned though she and russia 's foreign minister are working together on a political solution they remain far from a breakthrough. joining me is former defense secretary william cohen , thanks so much for joining us.
>> good to be this you.
>> russia sounded a few different signals this week. putin in turkey, making some suggestions perhaps they would not be sticking with assad as strongly as they have been in the past. then this is the first time that foreign minister met with hillary clinton on assad , met with the u.n. mediator and we're being cautioned this is no break through but there will be follow-up meeting. seems some u.s. officials russia is hedging its bets or beginning to see a future without assad .
>> i think that's the case. we've talked about this before, but there is a russian card to be played, to be played by russia itself. they have influence with president assad , they have interests in syria , and i think that they can see the handwriting on the wall that assad is eventually going to go, whether it's in the near term, long term, eventually he's going. you can see the shift in momentum as far as the rebels now starting to gain much greater military success than they have in the past. they've been weapons that have been able to take some helicopters out of the air, shoulder-fired missiles, et cetera . i think they can see the shift taking place and want to be in a position to help negotiate some sort of an acceptable ending to this where they can play the role of a peacemaker. so i think not with standing their hedging or appearing to hedge their bets this ink that ir' going to play a positive role here to bring about an end to the assad regime and hopefully try to structure some sort of transitional government where you don't see the country just break apart and fragment into various sectarian enclaves. that's a danger we're facing now.
>> a couple other points. the russian's foreign minister told hillary clinton in ireland they do not want to take him in. they're not offering him exile. he's not going to find something outside of moscow. whether he goes to latin america or doesn't get out of his country alive that's another question. the meeting between hillary clinton and the russians sends a signal to some of his insiders, some of the defense officials, the military, that perhaps defection might be a safer option. i want to ask you about the chemical weapons . as the rebels gain ground there has been a concern y, you saw leon panetta warning assad should not use his chemical weapons or else. what is the military option? the caution that i'm hearing and you know far better than i as a former defense secretary , we don't really short of ground troops , 75,000 ground troops , we don't have a military option. you can't take a cruise missile and go after those depots without risking contamination.
>> there are two issues involved with chemical weapons . number one, whether assad himself would choose to use sarin gas , mustard gas or other chemical or biological agent to try to defeat the rebel forces. that's threat number one. threat number two would be if the rebel forces take over the country, there are elements in the rebel forces -- the u.n. and we and other countries don't want to see this take place. that's why it's important that we try to join forces with russia , turkey, other countries in the region to make sure we can bring about a quicker resolution than waiting it out for the rebels to take over and the possibility as i mentioned of practicing mentation taking place. there is no real military option. striking these chemical weapon facilities, that would release a plume that could affect not only the syrian people but neighboring jordanians and other countries killing thousands of innocent people. shooting at the military facility is not going to be successful. putting people on the ground that raises another issue altogether. who would they be? the united states . we're not going to put massive forces on the ground in syriap. it would have to be an international coalition. the russians have to be part of it. other countries have to play a role to secure the sites to make sure they don't fall into the hands of the wrong people. it's complicated but going to require russia and the united states all of the gulf states , it turkey and others, to really try to bring about a reasonable solution that will have a transitional government that will maintain the security of those sites until we can find out what kind of government is actually going to be established, is it going to be more democratic in nature, and promote the values that we all treasure. it's going to be a tough time. very tough time.
>> it is a very tough time, indeed. thank you very much. former defense secretary william cohen .