Interviews

Sen. Sullivan: Syria strike sent a clear, important response

Senate Armed Services Committee member on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," April 7, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, the briefing after the fact, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff now briefing members of Congress on Syria.

Republican Alaska Senator, member of crucial Armed Services Committee, Dan Sullivan among those given the heads-up on all of that.

Senator, very good to have, sir. Thank you very much.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN, R-ALASKA: Good afternoon, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Some of your colleagues, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, among others, concerned that they didn't get any heads-up on this and the president went a little too far. What do you think?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, I commend the president and his team, including Chairman Dunford, who briefed us just a couple hours ago, and, of course, the men and women in the U.S. military who carried out this response.

It was meant to focus on making sure that Bashar al-Assad could not once again use chemical weapons against his own people or against our allies in the region. And it was also meant to send a clear message: Don't do this again.

He's committed not to use these weapons. He's clearly in violation of that. So, I think it's a good start on a really important issue, which is reestablishing American credibility in the region, critical, difficult. But we got to do it.

CAVUTO: All right.

When I did speak -- and I'm sorry I wasn't clear in my question then -- when I talked to Senator Lee on this, he had just said, this did not represent clear and imminent danger to the United States, so he should have, that is, the president should have checked with Congress first, should have checked, more specifically, with senators about this first.

What do you say?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, I think this is an important response.

And I think, particularly given the war on terror, not every response -- and this was meant to be timely, it was meant to be proportional -- not every military response we can undertake to get the full Senate or full House to approve it.

There was talk in the meeting about the -- a use of military force resolution. I have always been for that. But, if you remember, President Obama put forward one last couple years that was much too limiting.

What we don't want to do is limit the president of the United States to protect the interests of the United States.

CAVUTO: Now, part of that use of force agreement the president wanted to push was that if the United Nations was going to act sort of like an overseer, and make sure that the regime, in this case in Syria, would get rid of its chemical weapons, and that the Russians, ostensibly as their chief spokesperson, if you will, and watcher, would oversee it.

SULLIVAN: Right.

CAVUTO: Now, we found out that that wasn't the case. This is the clearest case that they didn't do what they said, and the Russians were culpable as well.

So, didn't this actually behoove the action the president took and didn't it actually strengthen his argument not to consult you guys at all?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, I think that we're clearly getting briefed on it right now.

And I think that what we did also provides us with a diplomatic opportunity right here. You mentioned how that this is a clear violation of what the Russians, what the Bashar al-Assad regime had agreed to, and yet they're clearly violating the agreements.

I think what we have the opportunity to do now is isolate these countries diplomatically. You know, one thing that we did talk about in the briefing, Neil, was the overwhelming support of our allies, not only in the region, but out NATO allies around the world.

This is the importance of beginning to reestablish U.S. credibility in the region and to begin to reestablish U.S. leadership. When we're leading, when we're taking action that advances U.S. interests, other countries are going to follow. And I think you're seeing that today.

CAVUTO: Would you feel this way as well, Senator, if there's a follow-up, if it's not a one-off, that if the administration gets similar evidence that Syria isn't behaving or, with chemical weapons, dialing them back, or is doing anything else provocative, that it does so again and doesn't consult you again?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, we -- what we need to do is wait and see what this action, which I supported, was meant to do was to send a signal to the regime that we shouldn't and neither should other countries tolerate the use of banned chemical weapons against either your own citizens or the citizens of our allies in the region.

And I think that that was a clear message. It is an issue with regard to the credibility of the Trump administration trying to regain that U.S. credibility that's been lost in the region.

So, I think we should wait and see. But if he undertakes actions similar to this, I think we should look seriously at striking and degrading even more of his chemical weapons capabilities and his ability to attack his own citizens and, again, our allies in the region like Israel.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator, thank you for taking the time, Dan Sullivan of the beautiful state of Alaska.

SULLIVAN: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

END

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