WASHINGTON -- A top Obama administration official said on Sunday that a UN Security Council resolution requiring the Syrian government to inventory and destroy its chemical weapons will have enough teeth to be effective.
In an appearance on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," National Security Adviser Susan Rice framed the resolution as a potentially major breakthrough, though one that wouldn’t necessarily resolve the civil war that has ravaged Syria. Asked how the resolution could be effective when it doesn't include military action as an enforcement mechanism, Rice noted that the UN could still impose punitive punishments under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Ratcheting things up a bit more, she restated that President Barack Obama reserves the right to use military force against Syria if he deems it a national security interest, and she implied that non-compliance with the UN resolution could fit that description.
From the transcript of her interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser. Ambassador Rice, the president said that if Syria does not comply with the U.N. resolution about chemical weapons, there will be consequences. But there are no consequences mapped out in the resolution. That was something the Russians did not agree to. So does that mean the United States would take unilateral military action if Syria does not comply?
RICE: It means, certainly, that we reserve that option, Fareed, to take whatever enforcement action we deem appropriate whether military or otherwise. But I think it's important for people to understand what this resolution accomplishes. In fact, it does say in very clear-cut terms, that if there is non-compliance on the part of the Syrians, there will be action taken under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Chapter 7 is the only chapter of the Charter that calls for and allows for enforcement action. And, obviously, in any circumstance, we would need to come back to the Security Council if we sought multilateral endorsement of such enforcement action in the circumstances, have a negotiation about what that action ought to be. But it's very significant that this strong and binding resolution which holds Syria to the obligation that the United States and Russia negotiated in Geneva will, in fact, envision very explicitly further consequences in the case of non-compliance. That was a very strong element of the resolution that was negotiated by Secretary Kerry with the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov, going back to Geneva a couple of weeks ago.
ZAKARIA: If Assad does not comply and if Congress does not pass an authorization or approve a resolution approving of the strike, as seemed likely the last time around, would the president still use his powers as commander-in-chief to authorize a strike?
RICE: The president has been very clear that we remain postured to act if -- if the choice is -- is taken by him and if the necessity arises. We're not taking any options off the table. And the president has been very clear that as commander-in-chief he has the authority to act in the interests of the United States and to use force if necessary.