Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says all efforts in Syria right now should be aimed at following through on the plan to remove and destroy the country’s chemical weapons. “That’s the most important thing, and we shouldn’t take our eye off of that,” Harkin says. “There are those who I think want to upset that apple cart, upset this process, by doing other things.”
He says removing Syria’s chemical weapons threat could have an impact well beyond that country. “Right now, let’s keep our eye on this one thing, identifying, locating, securing chemical weapon stockpiles, dismantling them, getting them out of the country. It’s not going to happen overnight,” Harkin says, “but this also could lead to more of a worldwide ban on the manufacture, stockpile and use of chemical weapons.”
President Obama pulled back on using military force against Syria after it became clear public opinion was against a military strike. Harkin says the public opinion against the military option won’t hurt the effort to remove the weapons. “I think there’s a growing sentiment globally for that. And so, regardless of whether not the Assad government is reading the polls where the United States says we shouldn’t go in there — I think they recognize it’s not just the United States, but the entire world community is turning against them,” according to Harkin.
Harkin says the U.S. does have an interest in Syria beyond the chemical weapons. But, he says it is not unilateral and action moving forward would include other countries. “In conjunction with Jordan and with Turkey, with Lebanon, with Israel, even Iran. So our interest is trying to tamp it down and find an agreement whereby there would be some sharing of power,” Harkin says.
Harkin believes the final outcome for the country might be enclaves of different groups that are self-protected. He says if Assad remains in power in Syria it would likely be in a very restricted area.