Morning Joe | March 20, 2013
>>> live pictures of the airport in tel aviv . president obama will be landing in 20 minutes and we will follow the story throughout the morning on " morning joe ." welcome to " morning joe ." good morning. it's wednesday, march 20th . with us on the set is we have msnbc political analyst and former chairman of the republican national committee michael steele and msnbc political analyst richard wolf and former adviser to the bush administration and author of "start up nation," dan senor . in washington former representative of california and ceo of the woodrow international senator for scholars, jane harman . good to have you both and all of us together this morning.
>>> right to the news. we had the two-year-old conflict in syria is entering a critical stage. both the rsyrian state news agency reports 25 people were killed yesterday. american officials say they are looking into allegations and white house press secretary jay carney issued a warning to the assad regime.
>> we have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons . we are deeply skeptical of a regime has lost all credibility and warn the regime against making these kind of charges as any kind of pretext or cover for its use of chemical weapons .
>> neither side of the conflict has provided documentation that chemical agents have been used. senator lindsey graham spoke about the allegations telling foreign policy that quote this. we need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites either in conjunction with our partners or, if nothing else, by ourselves. if the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, i vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem. but following intelligence briefings, the chairs of both the house and senate intelligence committee said they believe president bashar al assad has crossed the so-called red line in the civil war .
>> i think the days are becoming mow desperate. the regime is more desperate. we know where the chemical weapons are. there's no secret that they are there. i think the probabilities are very high that we are going into some very dark times and i think the white house needs to be prepared.
>> i have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used. we need that final verification but given everything we know over the last year and a half, i would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use and ready to do that, or, in fact, have been used. both of those scenarios, i think, we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster that we haven't seen seen since 25 years ago in iraq .
>> the world health organization is sending medical supplies to syria would not verify if patient were seeking treatment for chemical weapons . at least 70,000 syrians have been killed since two years ago. nearly 800,000 people have fled to jordan and lebanon.
>> jane harman , the situation keeps getting worse by the day. we just had a clip by the democratic intel chair person of the senate. the republican chairman of the house intel committee talking about this red line being crossed. i remember having debate a couple of months ago about 20,000 syriaians being killed. we are up to 70,000 right now. how much longer does this go on before the united states and the allies, through the united nations , get involved and take this tyrant out of power?
>> well, right. i was there, joe, ten years ago when i believe bad wmd intelligence on iraq so i'm reluctant to say something i don't know and i don't know on the chemical stockpiles whether they are ready for use or have been used and i don't think we absolutely know. i just did hear the clip of mike rogers , but i do agree we have reached a tipping point and that we have to play a more forceful role. $60 million of hue man tear relief is not enough. the allies are ready to help arm the opposition. the opposition has named a leadership team, which is important the lead is american syrian who at least sounds competent. i have no idea. but having just been in israel and in europe, i think that we ought to consider, as part of a group, moving against the arias sets in syria .
>> certainly be good to act as a group, which is something the president has done before. dan, these decisions are so difficult because i think a to jump too far into the gating at hand, a tipping point.
>> to be clear, there are actions that can be taken short of u.s. direct interventions. applying the armed and defense capabilities. emerging bipartisan coalition in congress pushing for that. basically coming out for it a couple of days in the senate, senators marco rubio and bob casey , casey, democrat of pennsylvania have provided more legislation to provide more support for the syrians. so i think the combination of the human catastrophe. then you add this development. i think it gets to a point where the question is, yes, engaging in some way and providing e resources on the ground are risky but riskier than where this is heading?
>> how long do we wait? obviously, this is a country exhausted by ten years of war going into iraq for all of the wrong reasons a decade ago. our policy leaders remembering that but are we like generals fighting the last war who have the human catastrophe in front of us? 70,000 killed. so many displaced. how long do we --
>> we don't mind sitting out of humanitari humanitari humanitarian castastrophes. since 1998 most thing millions of people have been killed. we are looking at this for digit reasons so let's not fool ourselves about the humanitarian aspect of it.
>> help me out here. i've asked this question of dr. bres brzezinski. i remember the million of people killed in rwanda and two million killed in sudan. we sat by and did nothing. then humanitarian crisis in. fewer people were killed in either of those conflicts in rwanda and --
>> if you're saying this is a strategic question, syria is important because of the strategic play in this region. what the white house is doing isn't immoral. which is to say syria is important because of israel and iran but at the same time, trying to deal with iran directly and one of the other lessons from iraq if you think there is a threat in the region among muslims, among arabs, you should go after that threat. go after something peripheral. the strategic question for this administration has always been is syria so well armed that nothing short of full-blown war? you can have some air strikes but to take down syrian air defense is a full-blown war.
>> john mccain tells a compelling story of being -- recently being in a syrian refugee camp in jordan and walking through that camp with the director and having her say to him, look at all of these kids. they are the future jihadis. i think we have a strategic interest way beyond the short-term issues which are huge about destabilizing jordan and giving us maybe an advantage in iran if the syrian government changes and the fallout with israel . i think the long-term issue is do we have values that want to prevent this kind of thing? after all, europe finally did it and we were with them in bosnia. we didn't do it in rwanda . we did act in libya which has less strategic interest for us than this. i think there is no choice any more. i was very cautious for a long time and applauded obama for being cautious, but now we have reached the tipping point.
>> we will come back to this. we have a lot of other news to cover as well.