Condoleezza Rice calls on U.S. to arm Syria rebels

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestures while delivering a speech at the National Auditorium in Mexico City Sept. 9, 2011.
AFP/Getty Images

(CBS News) Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the United States to arm opposition fighters in Syria on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, joining a chorus of Republicans led by Sen. John McCain to provide weapons to rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rice expressed to Erica Hill and Charlie Rose her disagreement with the Obama administration's position on Syria, which is that the rebels lack the organization and trustworthy fighters to be given weapons. Rice argued that regional players are already arming the Assad regime and the opposition in pursuit of their own agenda in the Middle Eastern nation.

"I do believe that you're probably ultimately going to have to arm the opposition, maybe even today, because people are being armed," said Rice. "Assad is being armed by the Russians and by the Iranians, so it's not as if people are not being armed."

Special Section: The Arab Spring
Condoleezza Rice says "no way" to VP for Romney
Activists: Fierce clashes on Assad's doorstep

Rice emphasized that she understood the difficulties the United States faces in carrying out its foreign policy. She's also had experience in engaging countries like Syria. In 2008, well before the beginning of the wave of unrest among Arab nations known as The Arab Spring, Rice was the highest-ranking U.S. official in more than 50 years to meet with Libya's then-strongman Muammar Qaddafi after the two nations restored diplomatic relations. Last year, rebels executed Qaddafi after overthrowing his regime.

In evaluating President Obama's foreign policy as a whole, Rice said the United States can't "lead from behind."

"We really do need to have a view," said Rice. "It cannot be the lowest common denominator view of the international community through the Security Council of the U.N., and secondly this really counts on rebuilding our strengths at home, and so the state of our economy, continuing to borrow money that we cannot afford, entitlements, if we don't get a handle on who we are at home and fix our multiple problems at home then we will not lead."

Above, watch Condoleezza Rice talk more about Syria, her opinion of a Romney presidency and whether she would serve as vice president