Hagel: Russia plan could be 'real solution' to Syria standoff

Russian-led plans to end the U.S. military standoff with Syria is a "real solution" that could bring America back from the brink of war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. 

"All of us are hopeful that this option could be a real solution to this crisis," he said. 

Hagel's comments reflected President Obama's optimism that a peaceful solution can be reached in Syria. 

ADVERTISEMENT
On Monday, Obama said it would be "possible" for Syria to avert a military strike if it agrees to turn over its chemical weapons. 

"It's possible if it's real," Obama told CNN in one of six network interviews he taped on Monday. 

"This is what we've been asking for, not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years," he added. 

Moscow floated the proposal Monday, which would have Syrian President Bashar Assad hand over his chemical weapons stockpiles to international control. The plan was a significant break by Moscow from the country's long-standing support for the Assad regime throughout the more than two-year civil war in the country. 

However, Hagel made clear that Russia and Syria must be willing to follow through with the plan before U.S. military planners would be willing to take intervention off the table. 

"We must be clear-eyed and ensure it is not a stalling tactic by Syria and its Russian patrons," Hagel said during Tuesday's hearing on Syria. 

"The threat of U.S. military action must continue to be very real and credible," Hagel added. 

That said, the White House's decision to pursue military options in Syria prompted "this new diplomatic track to gain momentum," the Pentagon chief said. 

On Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also said he was "skeptical" that Russia would be able to convince Assad to give up his chemical weapons. 

However, Boehner said it would be up to the president to prove the viability of the Russia deal to the American people during a televised address Tuesday night. 

Panel Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) have expressed doubts on the Russian plan. 

"It's not real at this point," Smith told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday. 

Congress and the White House have more work to do with Moscow to see if the plan can become reality, McKeon added. 

"We are talking hypotheticals at this point," the McKeon said during the same briefing to reporters. 

"Its hard to say at this point" whether Washington and Moscow can be confident enough to guarantee the Russian disarmament plan will work, the California Republican added. 

More in Defense

Hagel: Pentagon 'ready to assist our French allies'

Read more »