Keane: U.S. Should Take Out Assad’s Air Power, His ‘Most Vulnerable Military Capability’

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Ret. Gen. Jack Keane said an attack on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s air power would result in a significant degradation in his military capability Tuesday on Special Report and be a proper response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

In an interview with Bret Baier, Keane called Assad’s air capabilities his most vulnerable military component.

“We can take down those air fields, the aircraft on them,” Keane said. “Also, the munitions, the fuel, the warehouses that the Iranians and Russians are using to resupply them, we can do all of that. That would be a significant degradation of his capability, and something he isn’t bargaining for. He is not expecting to lose his air power over the use of chemical weapons.”

Keane added he hoped President Obama would follow through on such a maneuver, but he remarked his administration has a tendency to look for moves with minimal risk and likely would not. However, Keane said his suggestion would take only a few nights, with some scattering of cruise missiles around the country at less significant targets to confuse the Syrians:

BAIER: Is there any doubt, knowing what you know about Syria, knowing what you know about Assad, that these chemical weapons were used by him and not by the rebels to somehow spur some action by the U.S. and its allies?

KEANE : There’s no doubt in my mind. The rebels moved into east Damascus about three weeks ago. Assad pounded them with artillery, with mortars, and also with attack aircraft. He could not dislodge them. They received a weapons shipment just a number of days prior to the use of chemical weapons. He went after them with the next weapon to try to be successful, knowing how important Damascus is to him and the center of gravity it is to the entire campaign, so that’s why he’s using chemical weapons. His calculation though, is that we would, one, either not respond, because we have not to date, or number two, if we did, it would be minimal and it would not hurt his military capabilities.

BAIER: You think there’s a risk in responding just for a punishment strike, as opposed to some strategic tactical maneuver that takes out Assad and his capabilities.

KEANE: Absolutely. Listen, we cannot topple the regime using standoff weapons. I’m not suggesting that. But a strategic view of this, what are we trying to accomplish here? One of those goals would be to help topple the regime, which is a stated goal of the administration, provide arms to the rebels, lethal arms that they desperately need, much more than small arms, and number two, go after a significant military capability. The most vulnerable military capability he has, Bret, is his air power. There’s 20 air fields, only six of them are primary. He only has about 100 aircraft. We can take down those air fields, the aircraft on them. Also, the munitions, the fuel, the warehouses that the Iranians and Russians are using to resupply them, we can do all of that. That would be a significant degradation of his capability, and something he isn’t bargaining for. He is not expecting to lose his air power over the use of chemical weapons.

BAIER: But there are very few people in this town, who know the military, who believe this administration is going to do that. Do you believe they would go that far?

KEANE: I would hope they would. My judgment is they probably would not. They have a tendency to look at the minimal amount of risk involved. Frankly, what it would take to do what I just suggested can be done in a couple of nights, and it doesn’t take that much more than scattering cruise missiles around the country at other targets that may not be as significant. The impact, Bret, is this. I know for a fact from my own contacts inside Syria with the opposition forces, they have high expectation, because this is the first time anybody has done anything to help them. If all we do is something symbolic, they’ll be devastated by it.

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