Opposition forces in Syria are winning "each and every day" in their battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, says retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely who has just returned from the country.
In a wide-ranging interview with Newsmax.TV, Vallely called Assad "as evil as Hitler" and warns that the regime may use chemical weapons against rebels if it is “backed into a corner.” He also revealed that his team was involved in the rescue of kidnapped NBC journalist Richard Engel.
And the general slammed Sen. John Kerry as “a turncoat” regarding the Vietnam War and said he should never have been considered as Secretary of State, the post that President Barack Obama nominated him to on Friday.
And he predicted that the Obama administration will impose new gun controls in an effort “to disarm the American citizens” following last week's tragic school shooting in Connecticut.
Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.
Vallely retired from the Army in 1993 as Deputy Commanding General, Pacific, and was a senior military analyst for Fox News. He is the co-author of the book "Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror," and chairman of the Military Committee at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.
He said he had just returned from a second visit to Syria where he was in contact with the rebels. "I met with 70 of the commanders including nine generals who had defected or left the Assad regime, and they certainly are on the offensive over there, hitting the airfields and army posts belonging to the regime.
“So the Assad regime weakens each and every day even though it’s bolstered by flights coming in from Iran, ships from Russia," he said.
"But I can tell you the opposition forces are winning each and every day. They’re taking heavy casualties. A lot of wounded over there. The civilians have been targeted, the hospitals have been targeted."
Vallely said his team helped rescue Engel, five days after he had been kidnapped by Assad loyalists.
“That was through the Syrian opposition liaison group and our connection over there to several of the doctors — two of them are Canadian. A lot of people don’t know that but if it wasn’t for our reach-out over there and our liaison group, that correspondent would probably not have been rescued.”
Elaborating on the rescue mission, Vallely says: “Dr. Khalid — I can say his name, he’s given me permission — is one of the brave doctors over there that always puts himself forth not only for his own people, but to include a Canadian liaison medical group that comes in and provides assistance.
“Dr. Khalid was able to network through, based on our request, to find any of the captured Americans over there and rescue them and bring them out, and some of the rescues have been costly. We attempted to rescue [American journalist] Austin Tice about five weeks ago but somehow or another the Assad regime’s army near the airport where he’s being kept got advance word on it through some leaks and they had several killed trying to get Tice but we’re still working on that.”
Asked if he believes Engel would have died if it were not for his efforts, Vallely responds: “They usually keep them over there to bargain — blackmail-type situations.
“As you remember, al-Qaida used to murder the captives and use it for publicity. The Assad forces that captured Engel sort of wanted to keep him in order to blackmail or to leverage him in some way. But we were able, through Dr. Khalid, to go in and make the rescue.”
As for Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, Vallely tells Newsmax: “The chemical weapons certainly were there. They’re originally cached from Iraq. That was done in 2003. There were three burial sites of the WMDs — chemical, biological — two sites in Syria and one in [Lebanon’s] Bekaa Valley.
“So here you have Russia and Iran supporting a tyrant, somebody who’s as evil as Hitler, killing his own people, and if backed into a corner, he may in fact use sarin gas.”
Turning to the deaths in Benghazi, Libya of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Vallely said blame goes to the very top.
“The whole thing lies on the senior leadership in the White House and in the State Department. We know from intelligence and reports and requests that came very, very early on, right up until the last two weeks before the ambassador and his team over there were killed, that there were pleas for more safety, more security.
“We know, in fact, when the attack occurred, the request did go up because they have these satellite phones that they use and they can put out an SOS immediately. But one general and one admiral were going to execute a rescue plan and it was basically rejected by President Obama and the White House and the State Department. So there’s culpability here at the highest levels.
“It’s like Fast and Furious. It’s like some of the other situations that have occurred over the last several years that this administration tends to cover up. They don’t release information that’s critical for the American people to understand.”
Vallely agrees with Col. Oliver North, who told Newsmax earlier this week that he could never support Kerry as Secretary of State, saying the senator denigrated fellow Vietnam Vets.
“John Kerry was what we called a peacenik back in the Vietnam War days,” said Vallely. “We know a lot of his Navy experience was self-promoted by him.
"He met in Paris with opposition to the United States. Whether you agree with what we did in Vietnam or not, basically, he was a turncoat as far as I’m concerned and should never have even been considered for senator, let alone the State Department.
“He’s a weak leader. He will follow the path of the individuals now in the White House and other parts of our government that continue to weaken our position in the world. I can tell you from being near the Syrians in Turkey, we have very little respect and credit. Sen. Kerry will not add to that."
Vallely also believes that former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, would be "very weak."
"I’ve not agreed with a lot of his positions that he’s taken over the years," he said. "He would be very bad choice as well.”
On Obama's calls for more gun control in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., Vallely warned: “They’re going to move. Their intentions in the White House, working with the United Nations, is basically to disarm the American citizens."
He laid the blame on the school shooting largely on the video game industry.
“The problem that we have is typically young, male 20-year olds that are gamers. A lot of that information and anxiety is created in playing games where there’s no consequence at the end other than a score. So we’ve got cultural decay in America.
“We’ve got to get God and true values back into the home and into the schools. It’s not guns, it’s people that kill, and almost all of these individuals have some kind of a mental problem. So that’s what we need to look at first.
“But America will stay armed to protect itself internally from a tyrannical government. The people that own guns, the vast high percentage, are there to protect themselves and their families and we if go back to the Revolution when we had tyrannical king, that’s what created our Revolution and that’s when the second amendment was formulated.
"We will never let a tyrannical government — inside or outside — destroy America.”
Looking ahead at the biggest challenges the United States will face militarily, Vallely says: “The biggest threats facing us in 2013 will continue to be our borders, particularly the southern border where we have a heavy influence from Iran into Caracas up through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
"We’ve got to do something about establishing better security on our borders.
“I would reposition our forces out of the Middle East to make sure we have no bases there and if there’s a threat coming from the Middle East against the United States, then we can attack it from outside. We don’t need bases over in the Middle East anymore,” he added.
North Korea recently conducted a successful long-range missile test. As the former Deputy Commanding General of the Pacific Command, Vallely was asked about the significance of the North Koreans’ missile program.
“If you go back to ‘Endgame,’ which Tom McInerney and I wrote back in 2004, we highlighted the network in the Middle East with North Korea and Russia. They share information of a defense nature, particularly in nuclear technology, not only in the launch systems, but the guidance systems and being able to take a warhead and put it on the missile and increase the test range.
“The Iranians are very smart. They’re always on the ground when North Korea does a launch. So they share all of that information. But keep in mind their ultimate target is the United States. That’s how dangerous it is.”
In his exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Vallely also discusses the military spending cuts that will be mandated if the country goes over the fiscal cliff.
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