The United States would face a "very limited risk" of major retaliation if it strikes Syrian military sites over the country's use of chemical weapons on civilians, says National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
"It's always a risk that military action can evolve in a complicated way, but we think that's a very limited risk in this case," Rice told "NBC Nightly News" on Tuesday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his backers in Hezbollah and Iran have no interest in seeing the situation escalate, Rice said.
Syria and Iran have threatened to strike U.S. ally Israel and American interests in the region if the United States carries through with its threat of limited missile strikes.
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But Rice suggested those threats were mere bluster.
"They know that the United States will stand up for our own national security, our own defense, and that of our partners and friends in the region. So it's not in their interest to escalate," she said.
"But we also have to ask, what if we don't act?" Rice said. "What message does that send to those who would use violence against us or others with impunity? What can we say to the civilians who have been gassed who likely will be gassed again and again if Assad concludes that he can get away with this?"
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