State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. had never taken the military option off the table with regards to Syria's chemical weapons removal Thursday, leading Associated Press reporter Matt Lee to ask why the administration didn't expect the historically deceitful Syrians to fail to meet their commitments.
"We've never taken the option, as it relates to Syria, off the table," Psaki said.
The U.S. slammed Syria Thursday for failing to meet its pledge to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction, calling it an "open-ended delaying" of the disarmament process as a means of renegotiating the deal they cut last fall. "It hasn't done anything" when the U.S. has just called out Syria for its various atrocities and abuses, Lee pointed out, but Psaki defended that tactic.
"Obviously what we're pursuing now is the diplomatic path, both on the removal of chemical weapons and on the Geneva Conference process, so that's where our focus is," Psaki said.
Lee countered with President Obama's State of the Union remarks Tuesday that "diplomacy coupled with the threat of military force" got the Syrians to agree to remove their weapons.
"Why do you not remind the Syrians today explicitly that the option of military force is still on the table to get them to live up to the agreement that they signed onto?" he asked.
Psaki sarcastically thanked Lee for his recommendation, but Lee said he was merely asking, if the administration thought that was a convincing factor for the Syrians, why not remind them of that military option.
"We feel the appropriate step today is to highlight the fact that they're not meeting the obligation, that there's more that can be done, that they have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their obligation, and so that's what we're highlighting today," Psaki replied.
This exchange followed:
MATT LEE: But when the Syrians have been called out in the past, like back before the idea of military strikes came into the equation, it hasn't done anything. Why do you think now that calling them out publicly for non-compliance is going to change their behavior when, as the president said the other night, what got them to agree in the first place was the threat of military force coupled with diplomacy?
JEN PSAKI: You're right, and we still continue to believe that. Some of the statements that they have made are that they don't have the equipment and resources necessary, and that is false. Which U.N. —
LEE: Right. So they're lying.
Recent Stories in National Security
PSAKI: That is a false claim.
PSAKI: So, Matt, where we are today is that obviously we're a month past the timeline of what we set out. We still believe that the diplomatic path that's been laid out here is the right path forward, and so we're going to continue to press the regime to abide by their obligations.