Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Judith Miller tells Newsmax that if Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad faces certain defeat he could “very well resort” to using his sophisticated arsenal of deadly chemical weapons.
Miller also states that it is just a question of time before the Assad regime falls, yet the United States still doesn’t know enough about the opposition forces likely to topple him.
Watch the exclusive interview here.
And she asserts that President Barack Obama is “doing nothing” in support of his expressed hope that a Democratic regime replaces the current Syrian leadership.
Miller, formerly with The New York Times, is an author, Fox News commentator, frequent Newsmax contributor, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Miller was asked if she believes a political solution to the Syrian civil war is a realistic option.
“Let’s hope that there is a political solution to this problem, but after almost two years of war and civil war, civil strife and increasing infiltration of al-Qaida, I’m very doubtful that there is a political solution,” she says.
Russia and the United States are now openly talking about how to wind down the Syrian conflict. Miller comments: “It’s very important that Russia be on board, that Russia accepts the fact that a collapsed regime in Damascus would not be good news for Moscow.
“Up until this time, we’ve seen no indication that Russia sees the threat to its own national security that’s developing in Syria. And Russia, of all countries, should be very much aware of the danger that the triumph of Islamists in Damascus would mean. After all, it’s fighting Muslim fundamentalists in Chechnya and in its outer provinces.
“So we’ve seen a beginning of understanding that the collapse of the Assad regime would not be good news for Moscow, and that’s why this dialogue between the United States and Russia was so important.
“The most daunting prospect, so far, is the possibility that in desperation, Bashar Assad might actually resort to using what is widely regarded as the largest, most sophisticated chemical weapons arsenal in the Arab Middle East.
“Intelligence officials believe that he has a wide variety of chemical weapons stored at least 40 different locations throughout Syria. There have been reports that he’s already started to mix chemicals together for his binary weapon, which would be sarin. He is believed to have VX, mustard, tabun, sarin — a variety of agents that he could use, either in an offensive operation or in a defensive maneuver.
“The administration has done everything that it can, and the Russians have conveyed this message privately, to convince Bashar Assad that using those weapons would be tantamount to committing suicide for him. And if he thinks that he’s going to go down anyway, that he is going to die the way Moammar Gadhafi of Libya did, he may very well resort to such a step but it would make him even more of an international pariah than he already is.
“If Bashar Assad is looking for an exit route that is in exile someplace, either in Iran or Venezuela or someplace that is not an International Court member because he would be reachable by the court if the country subscribed to that court, he cannot use those chemical weapons. So a great deal depends on something we know all too little about, which is how Assad sees his own situation and the plight of his Alawite minority community at this point.”
The Assad regime says it is worried it could be “framed” for using chemical weapons, that states sponsoring terrorism might supply chemical weapons to terrorists inside Syria.
Miller tells Newsmax: “That’s more of the paranoid response that we’ve been seeing from a regime which is under incredible pressure right now.
“At the moment, there seem to be only three possibilities for Bashar Assad and his ruling clique. One is that he will, in fact, suffer a kind of Moammar Gadhafi death and, as he says, live and die in Syria.
“Two, if he accepts flight or refuge someplace that is willing to offer it to him at this point and if his own Alawite community and the generals and intelligence people who will form his inner clique are willing to let him go.
“And three, a political solution which we discussed would be the best of those three possibilities in terms of minimizing the continued suffering of the Syrian people, but that I fear is the least likely of those three options.”
Asked if the Syrian rebels have the momentum, men, and weapons to continue their recent advances, Miller responds: “We’ve seen a kind of tipping point where the rebels are now on the move, on the offensive, where the Assad regime for the first time is clearly on its last legs. People say now it’s just a question of time before the regime falls.
“Nobody knows how much time we’re talking about. What we do know is that he has already killed between 40 and 45 thousand of his own people. That’s how many have died in this struggle to date. It’s probably much, much greater than that. And we simply don’t know at this point what his thinking is about these final days.
“My concern about the opposition is that we still don’t know enough about the people we’re dealing with, which is kind of extraordinary and, frankly, unacceptable after all of this time. What we do know is that the Obama administration is finally declaring one of the most important groups a branch of al-Qaida, this is the Nusrat group, that they are lock, stock and barrel owned by, directed by al-Qaida. And yet they seem to be one of the most important opposition groups in this very loose coalition of rebel militias that has come together and will be meeting on Wednesday in Morocco.”
Reports surfaced last week that weapons meant for Libyan rebel fighters wound up in the hands of Islamists. Miller was asked if it is too dangerous for the United States or any other outside force to provide weaponry for Syrian rebels because we don’t know enough about the opposition.
“What we don’t want to happen is a repeat of Afghanistan, where the people whom we have armed eventually turn on us and use those weapons against our people, our embassies and other Western and American targets, and that’s entirely possible given the fluidity on the ground and the lack of intelligence about the rebel groups themselves,” Miller says.
“Part of the problem here is that others are supplying those weapons and the rebel groups who are the best armed are precisely those who have been dealing with the Qataris and the Saudis and getting money from them. The problem with that for America is that the Saudis and the Qataris are supporting Islamists, not necessarily al-Qaida, but people who want Muslim Brotherhood-type organizations to prevail in Syria once Assad leaves the country or is killed.
“What the United States has said, what President Obama has said is that he wants the Syrian people, one, to decide their own fate and two, he hopes that a democratic regime that respects minority rights and civil rights would be put in place in Syria after Assad. The problem with that is that we’re doing nothing to make sure that either of those goals is achieved.
“To be frank, I’m not sure what we can do at this stage to enhance the probability of either of those goals being achieved. It’s too late. We’ve gotten into this game too late and even the provision of $200 million of humanitarian assistance, while worthy, will not affect the outcome of the civil war.
“What the president has said is his red line is the use of chemical weapons, but it’s unclear to me what this administration is planning to do even were Assad to use the weapons. Our options on the ground are very limited.”
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