Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday to discuss the plan agreed to by the United States and Russia to secure Syria's chemical weapons.
“This is a diplomatic breakthrough that is full of opportunity and fraught with danger. The opportunity is that we actually end up in a better place than we envisioned with the use of force, which is the elimination of all of Assad’s chemical weapons and his production facilities, in essence closing down these factories of death,” Menendez said.
While Menendez looked at the positive side of President Bashar al-Assad potentially giving up Syria’s chemical weapons, he expressed concern of whether the dictator would actually sign onto the agreement between the United States and Russia and whether Russia would block further action against Syria.
“Ultimately if he begins to move forward with some of the beginning elements of the agreement [but] doesn’t fulfill elements of the agreement as we move along, the Russians find as they often do saying some – in their mind some plausible reason why there should be no enforceable action at the United Nations and we’re back to where we started, except, Assad has bought time on the battlefield and continued to ravage innocent civilians,” Menendez said.
He further added that he’d like to keep the use of force as an option against Syria. “I’m looking forward to keeping the use of credible force on the table, because that’s the only reason we’ve gotten to this point.”
Menendez compared the Syria situation to Libya and Iraq, where Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein gave up their chemical weapons after they “believed the use of force against them was real and therefore gave up those weapons at that time,” Menendez added.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the Armed Services Committee, appeared in the same "Meet the Press" segment, expressing concern about President Barack Obama’s intentions behind potential action taken in Syria.
“I didn’t think that what the president was proposing in such specific terms was the right thing to do,” said Blunt. He continued, “I think Assad is a lot stronger today than he was two weeks ago.”
Menendez also addressed the broader implications behind action taken in Syria as a message to other countries, including Iran, “My view, strategically sending a message, for example, to the ayatollah in Iran, ‘Do not think about marching towards nuclear weapons. There is a consequence,’ or to the dictator of North Korea.”
“I also hope that we will pursue Assad for war crimes,” Menendez added.
Blunt agreed that “Iranians should understand what has happened in the last two weeks is not the template for Iran. A nuclear capable Iran is not acceptable. This would be a totally different debate in the Congress.”
Watch the full interview segment in the video above.