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EXCLUSIVE: Retired Top Military General Weighs In On Syria Crisis

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(credit: CBS) Pat Ciarrocchi
In addition to anchoring and reporting news for CBS 3, Pat Ciarro...
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By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A solution offered by Russia and endorsed by Syria is getting a hard look by the United States. It would require Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control.

CBS 3’s Pat Ciarrocchi spoke exclusively to a top military general, now retired, who believes the Obama presidency is at a potentially dangerous crossroads.

“The last thing we need is to get immersed in another Middle East war,” said retired General Anthony Zinni, an expert in Middle East military conflicts.

A military strike on Syria worries him.

“The point I would make is that it’s not just military action, it has to be for some purpose…some strategy,” he said. “If you don’t give them a way out, based on all dictators who feel trapped, he’s going to respond in a negative way.”

Zinni came to his native Philadelphia to accept an award honoring Italian-American veterans.

But Syria, congressional debate on a resolution to strike and the President’s speech Tuesday dominated the night.

“I think what the American people want to hear, is why are we doing this — what American interests are threatened. What are the consequences of not doing this and what is the end state. What are we trying to do with this?” he said.

Zinni believes the President needs to articulate a strategy to control chemical weapons.

CBS 3 also spoke with Republican Congressmen Jim Gerlach and Pat Meehan before their classified briefing late today.

“To take unilateral military action as a country, in a situation where national interest is not directly at stake, I think is the wrong thing to do,” said Rep. Gerlach.

“Our strategic interests go first to Israel,” said Rep. Meehan. “There’s a real question as to whether or not to have an American intervention for a place like Syria.”

Zinni also believes that international support is critical.

“We have an interest to protect and that’s the responsibility of our military. But rebuilding societies and bringing them into modernity, we have to be very selective of where we can do something to make a difference and where we can’t,” he said.

Even before today’s late developments on a proposed diplomatic solution involving Russia, General Zinni told CBS 3 winning Russian support where President Putin could get international recognition for a diplomatic solution with Syria could be a key to avoiding a military strike.

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