NATO head says political option best for Syria
May 31st, 2013
05:09 PM ET
2 years ago

NATO head says political option best for Syria

White House (CNN) – There was no mention of Syria Friday when President Obama made brief public remarks about his meeting with NATO's secretary-general on Afghanistan and other pressing global security issues at the White House.

But in an interview with CNN, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ongoing crisis was very much on the agenda behind closed doors.

"We discussed Syria and both agreed that the best way forward is a political solution," Rasmussen said.

A crucial player in any eventual plans for military action in Syria, the secretary-general cautioned finding a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the violence could get complicated.

A case in point - Russia's plans to provide anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Such weaponry could offer al-Assad's forces a deterrent against a future no-fly zone over Syria.

"I would urge all actors to refrain from steps that could be potential obstacles to finding a political solution," Rasmussen said.

The ultimate stumbling block on the path to peace would be conclusive evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the al-Assad government, an action that would cross a "red line" set by President Obama.

Rasmussen reiterated the White House position that United Nations inspectors must be granted access to Syria to answer the chemical weapon question.

But he added NATO has a red line of its own when it comes to Syria, specifically the sometimes volatile Syrian-Turkish border.

"As far as NATO is concerned we have one red line and that is the defense of our ally, Turkey," Rasmussen told CNN.

"This is the reason why we have deployed Patriot missiles to Turkey to ensure effective defensive protection of the Turkish population and territory against any attack including, of course, a potential chemical attack."

Earlier this week, Arizona Senator John McCain crossed the Syrian-Turkish border to meet with commanders of the Free Syrian Army.

Rasmussen said McCain's trip could actually be helpful.

"I think it also helps to engage with the opposition," Rasmussen said.

"The opposition is split. There are also extremist elements within the opposition. So to engage with moderate forces within the opposition might be very helpful," he added.

White House officials maintain "all options" are under consideration for dealing with al-Assad. But the secretary-general indicated political options appear to be gaining the most traction.

Rasmussen offered his support for efforts to set an upcoming US and Russia led conference aimed at finding peace in Syria.


Filed under: President Obama • Syria
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    A US and Russia led conference is a far better option than that sought by Senator mcCain et. al. – arming terrorists so they can use the weapons against us at a later date. I wonder if his former running-mate approves of him "palin' around with terrorists"?

    May 31, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Thomas

    People of the world need to place more responsibility on Russia .

    We should support the freedom fighters with intelligence , medicine , and a no fly zone , using drown aircraft .

    First Syria , next Iran , then North Korea ! It's a matter of time !

    May 31, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    A while back, McCain and Lindsay met with Ghaddafi and pledged their support. Now McCain meets with people who may be terrorists and pledges his support. After choosing Palin, you do wonder whose side John is really on.

    May 31, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. Gurgyl

    --I say just ignore the rest of the world and FOCUS ON USA.......

    May 31, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. ge

    in the 80s the taliban were freedom figthers back buy reagan -how did that work out

    May 31, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Deb in MT

    Awwwww, but Senator McGrumpy and his drooling cohorts on the Right are fairly trembling with anticipation of another war with boots on the ground in Syria, and lots of flag draped coffins here! Helliburton and KBR are already counting on the profits!

    May 31, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  7. swineflew

    Our priority is to grow the economy and create jobs, not to get into another foreign war which is none of our business

    May 31, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  8. Impeachment is an Option

    Freedom fighters? BS too! These may have started out as "Freedom Fighters", but they have disintegrated into terrorist groups. Watch what you wish for Thomas, the majority of those involved in fighting the Assad government now want a Caliphate that stretches around the world with themselves as the leaders. Remember that we as anything other than Muslims and Sharia law will not be tolerated. At least with Assad we had peace in the region. This will end very badly if Assad's side doesn't win. More responsibility on Russia...not going to happen. Russia needs a place to sell it's "goods", that being weapons. Otherwise Russia can't build back up it's Communist State again and that's exactly what Putin is trying to do. Iran, Israel will take care of and we will have to back Israel otherwise no one will ever believe us again. North Korea? Pip's squeak want to be dictator has nothing to threaten us with that we can't take care of. Our moving/opening missile bases in the northwest is all show so that the majority of people don't realize that we are giving them more food aid.

    May 31, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    The Arab League needs to take the lead on this – they have the most influence over Syria. And Europe needs to put pressure on Russia to put pressure on Syria to get Assad to step down.

    The U.S. should NOT get involved militarily.

    June 1, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  10. ThinkAgain

    Larry L: Excellent post – and excellent point about the Quitta from Wasilla's hypocrisy.

    Maybe all we need to do is dust off ol' GW to handle the situation with his pal, Vlad ... remember when Bush bragged about how tight he was with Putin?

    June 1, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  11. andrew

    nothing is going to get done ppl. They have been debating this for more than a year and now its well in the 100,000s dead. Every single country won't go to war or any type of peaceful without ether the cost for war or a opposing view. As thousands continue to die for a change in the country other nations just watch and listen.

    June 1, 2013 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  12. Just a thought

    Let's keep american boots off the ground. Rather let's see how Assad's military assets stack up against our drones.

    June 1, 2013 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  13. DWEBSTER

    That may be the best way. But it is not going to happen, Mr. Obama. Wake up. The Russians are gaming you.

    June 1, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  14. basedonfact

    Thomas the freedom fighters are openly connected to Al Queda. Anything we give them will directly or indirectly aid Al Queda

    June 1, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  15. DWEBSTER

    BTW, while I do not agree with McCain on arming the rebels, I also understand that he went there on a mission, with the blessing of the WH via the State Dept. to explore one of the same options Obama is considering executing. So, all of you on here calling McCain an idiot and war monger, have to realize that Obama is considering heading down that very same path. So it would be even handed if you leveled your criticism at Obama too. But of course, most of you won't do that because you are Obama rump swabs. In fact, I'm willing to bet that, when Obama does get around to arming these rebel groups and/or establishing a no fly zone,many of you will be praising him for what you are now attacking McCain for suggesting. It is Obama's decision, not McCain's

    June 1, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  16. andres

    Thomas quite the war monger aren't you? Before you so casually throw our youths into the breach, how about you review the outcome of our last two wars in the middle east. Iraq, from a stable dictatorship to a country friendly to Iran and on the verge of civil war. Afganistan, taliban and al quada flee to pakistan and destabilize pakistan, and the day after we leave afghanistan be it tomorrow or in a century it will revert to the taliban control and head right back to the rat hole it was before we came.

    Egypt, we threw Mubarak under the bus, now the muslim brotherhood is solifiying power and the economy has collapsed, Lybia, it too is on the way to fundamentalism, and now we want the same for Syria?

    If after reviewing our dismal middle east failures you still want to wage war, get thee to the nearest recruiters office and offer to put YOUR life on the line.

    Me I think that we as a country would be nuts to be involved in Syria

    June 1, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |