John Kerry smirking and in his best George Bush Jr. voice: John Kerry gives Syria week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack. And then Syria says yes! This is getting interesting, and maybe just a bit hopeful: Syria positive about giving up chemical weapons. Wow, fantastic, what an “elegant solution,” in the words of Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus. Here’s more detail, and then afterwards I have to discuss the potential peace party poopers (I’ve edited the terrible grammar in the following, and removed the italics):
Damascus welcomes Russia’s call to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community, the Syrian Foreign Minister has said, responding to Sergey Lavrov’s statement after the two met in the Russian capital.
“The Syrian Arab Republic welcomes Russia’s initiative, because the Syrian government cares about the lives of our people and the security of our country,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said …
“We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only to agree on putting chemical weapons stores under international control, but also for their further destruction, and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said earlier.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called for measures to provide for the safe storage and destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.
“I am sure that the international community will take quick measures to make sure that these chemical weapons reserves are stored in a safe place and are destroyed,” Ban said.
The rebels seem none to happy about this possible outbreak of peace (same source as above):
In response to the news, Syria’s top rebel commander has accused President Bashar Assad’s regime and Moscow of deceit. “We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this [Assad] regime tells lies, and the liar [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is its teacher. Putin is the biggest liar,” Free Syrian Army chief Selim Idriss told Al Jazeera.
And note, with concern, that Kerry’s offer was apparently “rhetorical,” since he can mind read Syrian President Assad:
The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement, the department added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.” …
Kerry said Assad might avoid an attack if he handed every bit of his chemical weapons stock, but added that the Syrian president was not going to do that.
Oh, okay, so it wasn’t a real offer, just a bluff, bull doo doo? Note also, by the way, the “every bit of” phrase, which takes me back to good old 2003. It’s the traditional ‘prove a negative’ challenge the U.S. always presents its next victim: in Iraq it was called “prove you’re not hiding even one little bit of WMD.”
Still, the ground has shifted, and the War Party may not get its war … and credit is due to Kerry’s spectacular gaffe, if that’s what it was. (He may be the best/worst Secretary of State in many a decade, depending on your perspective.)
Nonetheless, President Obama has to soldier on, trying to push skepticism and staying the cruise missiles course, but I also sense he doesn’t have his heart into pushing through all this surprisingly rough weather for warmongering:
The White House said it would take a “hard look” at the proposal from the Russian government to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to turn over his chemical-weapons stockpiles, but said it didn’t have confidence that Mr. Assad would do so.
“We would welcome a decision and action for Syria to give up its weapons,” said Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. But Mr. Blinken said he had little hope that Mr. Assad would give his chemical weapons to the international community as he refused for years to even acknowledge he held such stockpiles.
Notwithstanding reports that Russia has asked Syria to surrender an arsenal of chemical warheads to avoid a likely military strike from the United States, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that lawmakers in Washington should continue to consider President Barack Obama’s request to launch an attack against the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking during a White House press conference Monday afternoon, Carney told reporters that he hopes the members of the House of Representatives and Senate agree to authorize a strike against Assad in retaliation of the August 21 gassing of civilians outside of Damascus. …
Carney’s remarks came only hours after officials in both Russia and Syria said they were working towards relinquishing that stockpile of weapons. Despite a potential negotiation, however, Carney urged lawmakers to move quickly towards approving an attack.