In an effort to avert a U.S. military strike, Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed that the Syrian government should give up control of its chemical weapons and put them in possession of the international community. Additionally, Russia is asking the Assad regime to destroy its weapons to become a member of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem stated Monday that the Syrian government welcomes the proposal, but did not stating whether or not Assad would carry it out. However, if accepting the proposal entails preventing a U.S. strike, it appears the Assad regime will. "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in (Syria) makes it possible to avoid strikes, then we will immediately get to work with Damascus," Lavrov said.
Surprisingly, the idea did not come from Putin, but rather from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who, when asked what Syria could do to avoid a military strike, responded, "... 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, but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done." Apparently Putin called Kerry's bluff and is now putting Kerry's words to the test. Putin's proposal appears to be aimed at putting pressure on the Obama administration to show that its concerns over the use of chemical weapons is legitimate, and that the strike is not just an excuse for military intervention.
Russia's proposal is yet another example of how President Obama is struggling to gain support for his proposed military intervention not only domestically, but also internationally. Many countries have criticized all diplomatic routes in an effort to generate a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict. It appears that Russia's proposal could be the first step towards achieving that goal, a goal that Pope Francis has called the leaders of the world to strive for.
The White House responded to the proposal by stating, "We're going to take a hard look at this ... we'll talk to the Russians about it." It appears that for the first time, the United States and Russian governments agree on a solution to the Syrian crisis. One can only hope that diplomacy could avert what could become a terrible regional war. Regardless, the U.S. government has a proposal to consider that has dramatically changed the playing field.