NO WAY! A way out of Syria quagmire presents itself following Kerry remark
Kerry asks Syria to give up chemical weapons and Syria suggests it will agree.
What is being described as an offhand proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry, is being welcomed by all sides and could avert conflict in Syria while allowing the Obama administration to save face.
Kerry has made a strong case for military intervention in Syria, so it is surprising to see a solution coming from him, although he didn't mean it at the time.
One of the criticisms of an allied strike on Syria is that it would not eliminate the chemical weapons stockpiles that could be used to stage subsequent attacks on civilians. However, if Syria agreed to voluntarily give up those weapons, possibly turning them over to their Russian allies, in trust, then the U.S. would lose a major driver of Obama's call for military action.
It would also give the Obama administration a way out of the crisis without sparking an international conflict or losing face. Instead, the United States would gain credibility as a powerful negotiator, willing to back its words with force, but also willing to follow a peaceful path if one is available.
The best news is that both Russia and Syria have backed the idea as a possible solution.
The Obama administration has already announced it would consider the idea. Meanwhile, the President continued to make the case for strikes to Congress on Monday.
The solution came out during a press conference in London, when Kerry was asked what steps Assad could take to prevent a military strike on his country. Kerry replied, "Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting."
Kerry immediately dismissed the likelihood that Assad would do such a thing.
The remark sounded like Kerry had low expectations of anything akin to that happening, but Russia has already said they would support the plan as a way to prevent escalation of the conflict.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said of the idea, "We don't know whether Syria will agree with this, but if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus."
Syria then announced, via Russia's Interfax News Agency that their government welcomed "the Russian proposal."
David Cameron has also signaled his hopes for the measure. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he would like to see the Security Council take up the measure.
Back in Washington, administration officials are hailing the Russian support as a vindication of their policies. Mike Rogers, (R-MI) head of the House Intelligence Committee told the New York Times, "Just the fact the Russians have moved tells me having this debate on military action is a having a positive outcome."
Still, even if the proposal gathers traction within the next day or so, there is a lot that can derail it. For one, Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Charlie Rose, which will be aired on television. During that interview, Assad threatened an attack on the U.S. which could come from "many sources" should the U.S. strike Syria. Generally, Americans do not like to be threatened.
At the same time, any move towards a diplomatic solution could also undermine Congressional support for striking Syria. Finally, Syria would genuinely have to comply with the request. How that would be managed would be subject to great debate and it would take considerable time.
Ultimately, for Assad to simply give up the weapons he still possesses leaves an injustice in place. As the ultimate perpetrator as a chemical weapons attack, Assad will not be any closer to defeat or justice for his crimes against his own people.
What is most tragic that that the world has already forgotten about the 1,300 people, including children, who were mercilessly gassed in their beds on an August morning.
This is not to suggest that airstrikes would promote justice either, however Assad remains in power, and no formal charges or indictments in international courts have been made against him or key members of his regime.
For now it appears the world may avoid a wider conflict in Syria, Obama may save face, and Assad will remain unpunished.
We must remember that we take the good with the bad.
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