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Former Secretary of State James A. Baker discussed the fiscal cliff negotiations and the crisis in Syria in an interview with co-hosts Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell that was broadcast live today, Dec. 7, 2012, on CBS THIS MORNING on the CBS Television Network (7:00 AM – 9:00 AM). Check out the interview in its entirety below!
Below are excerpts from the interview:
ROSE: Secretary Baker, what do you think the government of Assad, President Assad might do with these chemical weapons? Is he capable, likely to use them?
BAKER: Well, I have no idea, Charlie. But if there's evidence-if our intelligence community has evidence that they are beginning to mix the chemicals, that would be quite disturbing if he did use them. It would not be the first time that an Alawite sect leader used them against his own people. That happened, of course, way back in 1980, when Saddam Hussein used them against the Kurds, so hopefully that's not going to happen.
ROSE: What should trigger the United States to act to stop him from using them?
BAKER: Well, I think what the administration has done and is doing is the right course to follow. I think it's fine to put a marker down there and tell the government of Bashar al-Assad that they better not use them, but that does raise a credibility problem because any time a president of the United States threatens something, he better damn well be prepared to follow through with it and they've never said what the consequences would be, of course. The consequences could range from anything including further diplomatic, political and economic actions to military action or to the idea that once the regime falls and it is going to fall, once the regime falls then the people responsible would be held accountable in the proper jurisdictions.
ROSE: Are you suggesting that the President should make clear what the consequences are rather than just simply saying there will be consequences?
BAKER: Well, I don't know whether you do that publicly now or not, but I think it wouldn't be at all bad for the Syrians to understand what the extent of the consequences are. I mean, it's fine to threaten, you know, undefined consequences, but it might be more meaningful to the Syrians if they knew specifically what the consequences were. I happen to be one who doesn't think we ought to be involved militarily in that country. I think the American people are tired of military involvement in that part of the world. Our forces are stretched pretty thin. We don't have the money, we're broke, we're a broke country. And so anything we can do politically, diplomatically and economically we should do to bring about a regime change there. We ought to be quite weary and leery, I think, of military involvement, which has a way of becoming a slippery slope, and that is the policy that I think the administration is following and so far at least I agree with that policy.