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Coats Discusses Syria's Civil War on FOX News


Location: Washington, DC

Shannon Bream, FOX News: There are reports today that Iran plans to send 4,000 revolutionary guard troops to Syria to fight along President Assad's forces. That decision was made before the presidential election and before President Obama's decision to send lethal aid to Syrian rebels. Joining us for perspective is Senator Dan Coats from Indiana. Thank you for coming in today.

On Friday, the administration put out an announcement that we now believe here in the U.S. that chemical weapons have been used by Assad against his people. What do you know about that? How confident are you in that assessment?

Senator Dan Coats: I am very confident in that assessment. But I think this could have been determined weeks ago. We seem to be reacting, rather than being proactive to situations. The British, the French, and the Israelis, and others have pretty clear evidence of use of chemical weapons some time ago. So there has been a…It seems like we are behind the curve here, including, potentially, the latest statement on small arms. I am not sure that is going to do the job. No one is advocating boots on the ground. But America has not taken a lead, deciding what to do about Assad. We said it's unacceptable. But he's prevailing. Is this too late, too little? It looks like it -- given what they have said so far.

Bream: The question about what is being sent to the rebels there. You mentioned small arms. The White House has been pushed on what they are willing to provide, whether it will be enough to make a difference at this point.

Coats: Small arms don't stop tanks, when the Syrians are using them or air attacks, which the Syrians have been using. You need anti-tank and anti- missile type of anti-aircraft if you are going to give the rebels any kind of chance of leveling out the playing field here.

Bream: How do we vet who the rebels are, who we will be willing to provide…how does that vetting process happen?

Coats: Well, it's very important that it does happen. We do have ways through other intelligence services and other contacts there that we have with the groups because we absolutely have to make sure that we don't see the weapons falling in the wrong hands and we do know there are elements of the rebels that are coming from the wrong sources. So we have to be very, very careful in who we give these to and how we oversee the delivery of arms because we don't want them turned against us or Israel or other allies in the region.

Bream: There seems to be a weary business to get involved in any way in Syria or anywhere else. We put this out as our twitter question and we have the vast majority saying, no, we can't properly vet the people. We have problems at home, why is this the right time for the U.S. to get involved in something like this?

Coats: That's a legitimate question. To the extent, how are we going to get involved and how much are we going to do? Clearly it is in our national interest to see Assad go. But it's also in our national interest not to see the country taken over and end up in a sectarian war fight as we have seen now in Iraq. It's a mess in the Middle East. We are not going to be able to solve this problem. We can assist; we can work with the Arab League and our European leaders to try to address these things that directly impact us. But to think that we are going to engage in another war in the Middle East right now is not feasible and shouldn't be done.

Bream: One of your colleagues has been very outspoken on this particular issue. He made comments this past week, saying basically, Hezbollah is all in, Russia, Iran, there are a lot of competing interests that are fully invested. Russia is pushing back on chemical weapons. They are saying they are not convinced. What role do they play as we head into the G-8? Which discussions should we be having about their involvement and Iran's involvement?

Coats: We should be having the discussions, but I don't think Russia's coming down with the truth. It is clear they are coming down on the side of Assad. The talk and the diplomacy, I don't suspect for a minute that's going to solve the problem. We have to stand on the side of democracy and stand on the side of not supporting a murderous regime which has killed 100,000 people.

Bream: It has dragged on way longer than people thought it would. Happy Father's Day.

Coats: Thank you very much.

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