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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Foreign Policy in Syria


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KEILAR: OK. So, we heard Senator McCain clarifying there. It seemed to be backtracking a little bit on the next step for the U.S. government. We are, at this point, awaiting information, a conference call that the Obama administration will be having in moments. And our White House correspondent, our chief White House correspondent is monitoring that. We'll be getting details to you as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we have Senator Saxby Chambliss. He is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the phone. Senator Chambliss, your reaction to this news today?

VOICE OF SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) GEORGIA: Well, I think it's time that the president came out and said that we now know and because we validated it over the last several monies that Bashar Assad has, in fact, used chemical weapons against his own people in Syria, as well as against the opposition rebels.

So, when the president said that was a red line, I wish that as soon as that had been validated that he would have stepped up and said the United States is not going to stand by and see more innocent people in Syria get slaughtered, but I am glad that he's stepping up right now. And as Senator McCain said, maybe the final decision has not been made relative to arming the rebels. That has to be done very carefully, but we have a pretty good idea of who the folks are that we want to keep arms out of the hands of, Brianna.

But the president knows who those are, the intelligence community knows who those are, the military community knows. And, if the decision is to put lethal arms in the hands of the rebels, and it can be done in a very judicious way

KEILAR: How do you want the administration to react here aside from arming rebels? We heard from Senator McCain, he said that even more than that needs to be done just moments ago on the Senate floor.

CHAMBLISS: Well, Senator McCain has been advocating a no-fly zone for months. I've been very skeptical of that up until the last several weeks. But it's pretty obvious that if strong action is not taken, then Bashar Assad is going to remain in power for months, maybe even years. The Iranians are arming him. The Russians are arming him. Hezbollah has complete run of the country of Syria now.

So, we've got terrorists who are fighting with the Assad regime. The United States has never stood by and seen innocent people slaughtered to the extent that's happening in Syria. The United States does not need to be the world's policemen, but the United States does need to step in when tyrants like this, really, in a very militant way, kill innocent people on a regular (ph) basis.

Maybe a no-fly zone is the appropriate way to go. If the military of the United States decides that's the way to go, then I would support that.

KEILAR: And you are critical of sort of this response that has, I guess, evolved from the Obama administration. A couple of months ago, we heard from, I think, initially, it was from the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, and he was talking about there was some degree of certainty, but the idea of the red line being crossed wasn't definitive. Now, today, it is definitive.

It seemed that that was being done also said that the administration, although, there were obviously terrible atrocities being committed in Syria, that the administration was trying to, I guess, to consider its options and make sure that they did something in a very precarious situation, that they did the right thing and they didn't complicate matters further.

But you think that this should have been sorted out before now or do you think that it's important to have had this time to figure that out?

CHAMBLISS: Well, the president stated months ago that his red line was the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. We've known that they've been using chemical weapons for almost a year now against the opposition and against his own people in some cases. The president has taken his time, and as a result of taking that time, thousands more innocent people have been killed.

So, I've been critical, I think, for the right reasons, just like Senator McCain has, but I'm supportive of the commander in chief's decision if it is now to take appropriate action, and I'm sure that whatever that action is, it will be appropriate and it will be forceful. And hopefully, it will bring about the removal of office from President Assad because if we don't remove him from office, then innocent people in Syria are going to continue to be killed.

We're going to see refugees flood into Jordan and other countries in the Middle East and they're simply overrun in that country now. And, the situation in Syria has been boiling over way too long. And it's an opportunity for terrorists both from the standpoint of operations as well as training.

KEILAR: And senator, we know that you will be awaiting to see what the administration's reaction is as you call for arming the rebels. Some of your other Republican colleagues calling from war (ph) for a no-fly zone. Thank you so much for joining us here in the SITUATION ROOM.

CHAMBLISS: Sure. Good to be with you.


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