Wednesday Sep 18, 201301:23 PM GMT
Gates: US war on Syria like 'throwing gasoline on fire in Middle East'
Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:20PM
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When asked whether he trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gates said: "My answer would be, are you kidding me?"

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Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says a US military strike against Syria would be like "throwing gasoline on an extremely complex fire in the Middle East."

Gates, who was speaking at a forum in Dallas on Tuesday, also hinted that Washington’s past military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya showed that military action can lead to unintended consequences.

A proposal by Russia to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has so far stopped US military strikes against the country.

The Syrian government was accused for a chemical attack near Damascus on August 21. Russia says that the foreign-backed militants staged the attack to incriminate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Gates dismissed attacking Syria to enforce a “red line” by President Barack Obama, the Associated Press reported.

"I believe to blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple of days to underscore or validate a point or principle is not a strategy," said Gates, who also served as director of the CIA under George H.W. Bush.

The former official, who was Pentagon’s chief under Obama and former president George W. Bush, said he thought the country’s most recent presidents "have become too quick to reach for a gun to solve an international problem."

He also suggested that President Obama to covertly send weapons to "selected rebel groups" in Syria.

According to Gates, the United States should also push for Assad to be labeled a war criminal, for warrants to be issued for his arrest and for a seizure of his family's assets abroad.

About US negotiations with Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons, Gates said the US should push for more authority and strict demands on complying with any terms of an agreement.

When asked whether he trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gates said: "My answer would be, are you kidding me?"

The relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained over a number of issues such as the Syrian conflict and Washington’s installing of a missile shield system in Eastern Europe.

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