While expressing skepticism about promises from the Syrian regime to turn over chemical weapons, during a Monday night NBC News interview, later that evening… President Barack Obama leaned toward the proposal in the face of public opposition and wavering congressional support. This during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, saying, “We will pursue this diplomatic track.”
The proposal—generally that Damascus might be reprieved from military action if it were to hand over chemical weapons to international inspectors—was delivered Monday morning by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. It was followed by a statement from Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem, reportedly reading, “I announce that the Arab republic of Syria welcomes the Russian initiative.”
Obama had originally voiced skepticism over the plan, which Damascus is welcoming in public, saying, “I think you have to take it with a grain of salt initially.” The President seemed inclined to learn from history, stating, “this is not how we have seen them operate over the last couple of years.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad continues to issue denials that his regime conducted the chemical weapons attacks in August, one of the latest being to Charlie Rose in an interview, also airing Monday night.
Voting on the issue in Congress, originally slated for Wednesday, has now been postponed. The President indicated the vote would not be rescheduled in the near future, while this more diplomatic route is being pursued.
According to some, the Russian-initiated proposal stemmed from an offhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry. In London, Kerry said that US strikes on Syria could be avoided if they would immediately surrender their supply of chemical weapons. Kerry further stated his belief that Damascus would do no such thing, but Moscow turned around an offer to broker the proposal.
Obama took some amount of credit for the development, stating, “I have to say that it’s unlikely we would’ve arrived at that point without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons inside of Syria.” Repeating earlier interview assertions that his administration would, “run this to ground.”
The idea is also backed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as several Washington politicians and pundits, including former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called it, “an important step,” if Syria followed-through.