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September 2nd, 2013
05:34 PM ET

Hayden: Obama thinks Syria can be 'one and done' - but it can't

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad spoke to French newspaper Le Figaro, and when asked how his country would respond to a military strike, he said, "The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fire is approaching today ... everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists."

But is the Aasad regime threatening "a regional war," or is this a message on behalf of its ally, Iran?

"We want it to be one and done, the president's made that very clear: Very limited strikes, very limited objectives – deterring, degrading the potential use of chemical weapons. He's doing it, our president, to show resolve," said former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now a principal with the Chertoff Group, a risk-management and security firm.

"But guess what – Assad, and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies are going to want to show resolve, too, they're not going to want to give the United States a free ride for this kind of action," said Hayden, who added he expects "the Iranians engineering some kind of response."

Iran does not have the capability to send a nuclear missile, but they may use "strategic reach" weapons, which is Hezbollah, said Hayden.

"They could then use Hezbollah to attack Americans, American interests in the region, and perhaps as far as North America," said Hayden.

The intelligence that the White House is using to convince Congress to approve a U.S. strike states, in part, "We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack … Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons."

Many may read that intelligence and wonder why the U.S. did not take action if it knew a chemical attack was coming. That would be the wrong conclusion, said Hayden.

"It could be that only looking backward, having the information we now have, does it illuminate and give certainty to the information we had in prospect. Maybe it has this deep meaning only in retrospect," said Hayden.

For more of our interview with former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, check out the video above.

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