Powell stays mum on Syria intervention

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a key architect of the Iraq War who testified at the United Nations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, will not say whether the U.S. should attack Syria or not.

“As a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State, he does not think it appropriate to comment on this delicate and fluid situation,” Powell’s spokeswoman told The Hill in an email Thursday.

Powell appeared in an Aug. 23 interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Host Bob Schieffer asked him briefly about Syria, but he didn’t comment on the idea of U.S. intervention.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is “a pathological liar,” Powell said, while also suggesting the rebel movement’s intentions are unclear.

“In both Egypt and Syria, America has to take a much more clever role. We shouldn’t go around thinking that we can make things happen,” he said. “We can influence things, and we can be ready to help people when problems have been resolved, or one side has prevailed over the other. That’s when I think we can play a role.”

Besides that one clip, Powell has not done any other interviews on Syria since President Obama decided an attack is necessary.

In a June 2012 interview on “CBS This Morning,” Powell said the U.S. shouldn’t intervene in Syria’s civil war militarily.

“The question always comes down to, ‘well should somebody go in and intervene?’ ” he said. “I don’t think we can do that. I don’t think we can find ourselves in the middle of this.”

Of course, circumstances have changed in the ensuing year. The U.S. contends the Assad regime launched a chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 Syrians.

Powell’s former chief of staff, who served with him during the lead-up to and during the Iraq War, said Thursday he opposes a military strike on Syria.

Lawrence Wilkerson said the fight might be in the nation’s humanitarian interest, but “such interests are rarely advanced by the slaughter of human lives.” 

Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush’s first Defense secretary, on Thursday told CNN’s “New Day” that the U.S. shouldn’t strike because the White House’s proposal doesn’t go far enough, and because Obama is not a strong leader.

Powell left his Cabinet post in 2004 after being at odds with Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld over the course of U.S. foreign policy. Condoleezza Rice succeeded Powell.

Since entering private life, Powell has expressed regrets and acknowledged mistakes regarding the Bush administration’s justification of the Iraq War.

Powell is a former four-star Army general and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton.