By Mick Krever, CNN
Frederic Hof used to be the point man on the Syrian transition in the U.S. State Department; now, out of government, he could hardly be more critical of President Barack Obama’s policy toward that country.
“I believe that the president should have been prepared right at the outset,” Hof, the former U.S. State Department special adviser to the transition in Syria, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “I think he should have acted quickly. I think he should have authorized military strikes against the tools of terror: the artillery, the aircraft, the rockets, and the missiles.”
The potential for those strikes now is looking more and more remote, as a Russian proposal to have Syria turn over control of its chemical weapons gains traction among governments around the world, including the United States.
Hof, for his part, said it was “hard to tell if the initiative itself is serious.”
Even if it is, he told Amanpour, its success will come down to a single thing.
“It is the credible use of force that has gotten the Russians and presumably the Syrians interested in doing something about this toxic chemical stockpile,” Hof said. “If congress, in its wisdom, decides to make that credible use of force go away, this Russian proposal will be gone with the wind.”
The same, he continued, goes for any potential negotiated solution to the civil war as a whole.
“Diplomacy,” he said, “is not possible without the credible use of force remaining on the table.”