Top Obama Official Touts Obama Administration's Efforts in Removing Chemical Weapons in Syria

April 9, 2018

President Obama's former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman touted Monday the former administration's efforts to remove chemical weapons in Syria, saying the threat of force got Russia to the negotiating table in 2013.

MSNBC host Hallie Jackson asked her guests how President Donald Trump and his administration engage with Russia after recent reports of the Syrian government again using chemical weapons on their own citizens.

"So how do you engage with Russia here and how do you work around Vladimir Putin?" Jackson asked.

"Putin is probably the only person who can change the Assad regime's calculus, make them decide to do something very different," Doug Ollivant, a former Director for Iraq on the National Security Council said. "We can threaten military action, but anything that is sizable enough to really impact the regime's calculus is probably much more than we want to do. We get us far more entangled, inot someplace where we want to go and of course risks us superpower escalation with the Russians."

Sherman followed up by reminding the panel how she was part of the negotiation that got chemical weapons out of Syria.

"For one thing, I want to remind everybody of, having been part of the negotiation to get chemical weapons out of Syria, is that it was the threat of real force that got Russia to come to the negotiating table and try to find a solution," Sherman said. "We should hold their feet to the fire. They were part of that, we should take the action that we find necessary in this instance once we get the intelligence and maybe we'll get to a political diplomatic solution here because, as we both have said, there is no military solution, and people are suffering."

Sherman referred to the 2013 deal when the Obama administration was working with Syrian and Russian leaders to ensure that Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons would be turned over and destroyed. A deal was reached, and the Obama administration and fellow Democrats applauded the achievement.

The agreement was struck a year after former President Barack Obama drew his "red line" in August 2012, when he threatened military action against Assad if he used chemical weapons.

The reports of Syria removing its chemical weapons turned out to be exaggerated.