State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. had never taken the military option off the table with regards to Syria’s chemical weapons removal Thursday, leading Associated Press reporter Matt Lee to ask why the administration didn’t expect the historically deceitful Syrians to fail to meet their commitments. “We’ve never taken the option, as it relates to Syria, off the table,” Psaki said. The U.S. slammed Syria Thursday for failing to meet its pledge to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction, calling it an “open-ended delaying” of the disarmament process as a means of renegotiating the deal they cut last fall.
“It hasn’t done anything” when the U.S. has just called out Syria for its various atrocities and abuses, Lee pointed out, but Psaki defended that tactic. “Obviously what we’re pursuing now is the diplomatic path, both on the removal of chemical weapons and on the Geneva Conference process, so that’s where our focus is,” Psaki said. Lee countered with President Obama’s State of the Union remarks Tuesday that “diplomacy coupled with the threat of military force” got the Syrians to agree to remove their weapons. “Why do you not remind the Syrians today explicitly that the option of military force is still on the table to get them to live up to the agreement that they signed onto?” he asked. Psaki sarcastically thanked Lee for his recommendation, but Lee said he was merely asking, if the administration thought that was a convincing factor for the Syrians, why not remind them of that military option. “We feel the appropriate step today is to highlight the fact that they’re not meeting the obligation, that there’s more that can be done, that they have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their obligation, and so that’s what we’re highlighting today,” Psaki replied. More
The US says only around 4% of the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government has been removed. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was “concerned” that the UN-backed plan to remove Syria’s chemical arsenal was behind schedule. Mr Hagel told reporters in Poland that Damascus “had to take responsibility for fulfilling its commitment”. Delegates from Syria’s government and opposition have attended peace talks in Geneva for a sixth day. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters that there had been both tense and promising moments. He said a minute’s silence was held by the delegations on Thursday for all those killed in the conflict, which began in March 2011. In a separate development, a report from Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian government of “deliberately and unlawfully” demolishing thousands of homes in opposition strongholds. The organisation said this was “collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion”. More