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Former U.S. National Security Adviser, General Jim Jones tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour the absence of such a plan would have grave consequences – for Syria and the rest of the region.
“It was okay to be surprised by Tunisia for example,” General Jones said. “Maybe you could excuse it a little bit in Egypt. But Syria is a real big strategic country, particularly as it relates to stability in the Middle East. What happens to Lebanon for example if Assad goes? What happens to Iran?”
But does a plan exist? General Jones, a former member of the Obama administration, didn’t confirm it. But he did stress the importance of having one: “Obviously we should have a plan. As a global leader we need to consider what the elements of that plan are.”
Then he put forward his own framework: “From my standpoint it’s not just about sending in troops but it’s about having economic incentives and packages. It could be international; it could be multinational, but we have to figure out as quickly as possible who’s likely to emerge in a leadership position, how do we talk to them, and how do you put something on the table that meets the expectations of the people of Syria who are putting their lives on the line for a better life and a better future.”
With a leader like Assad, you can’t just hope they won’t be used
On Monday, President Obama warned the Assad regime that it would be “held accountable” if it decided to use its stockpile of chemical weapons. “The President did the right thing by drawing the line in the sand,” said General Jones. “And I think some of our recalcitrant friends and allies like the Russians and the Chinese ought to b e thinking about that very seriously as well.”
Asked if there are military plans to go in and get those chemical weapons, he said, “I don’t know. But I do know that whether Assad himself uses them or not, after he leaves, it would be wise to have a plan to go in and secure those weapons before they really do fall into the wrong hands, just as we did with Libya.”
In the meantime, the current situation is sufficiently dangerous: “In a moment of desperation, with a leader like Assad, you can’t just hope they won’t be used. And even if he doesn’t use them, at the end of the day they have to be secured; otherwise they might fall into the wrong hands and then we might have even a bigger problem.”
Could those “wrong hands” belong to al Qaeda? General Jones “wouldn’t discount that.” He went further and said, “I wouldn’t discount other interest groups, particularly terrorist organizations, from having that goal. It’s always been a goal of an organization like al Qaeda to achieve and to attain weapons of mass destruction.”
“So this is one of the big reasons why we’re concerned about Iran,” he added, “not only because of what they might do, but because it might trigger a nuclear arms race in the Gulf and it also might find its way to the non-state actors.”