Syria Chemical Weapons: Kerry's Diplomatic Fumbling Finds a Solution to Syria


Syria has just announced that they would welcome a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control. The Russian call to disarm was a response to John Kerry's earlier ultimatum in London that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had one week to hand over his entire stock of chemical weapons. This diplomatic fumble set off a scramble within the U.S. government to qualify the statement. The State Department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and the unlikelihood of Assad giving over Syria's weapons stockpile. However, Russia's call may mean that Kerry's apparent blunder might accidentally have turned into a workable solution for the Syrian crisis.

President Obama has stressed the importance of a political and diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. As the Senate prepares to vote on a military strike on Syria, the possibility of a diplomatic resolution seemed increasingly intractable. The Syrian response that they are willing to give up their chemical weapons stockpile represents the first possible political opening for the US. Indeed, Hilary Clinton has commended this as a possible "important step" in resolving the Syrian crisis.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "backed a demand by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria put chemical weapons under international control and then destroy them, a rare sign of apparent agreement between Moscow and Washington."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem directly stated during a visit to Moscow that Syria "believes in the wisdom of the Russian leadership that seeks to avert American aggression against our people." The minister has also praised the Kremlin for attempting to "prevent American aggression." The proposal was welcomed by the UN and a number of European governments; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has proposed the Security Council unite and vote on an immediate chemical weapons transfer.

Moreover, this is the first acknowledgment that Syria does possess chemical weapons. Contrast to Assad's previous statement made during a Charlie Rose interview that the U.S. doesn't "have a shred of evidence of chemical weapons."

The U.S. has largely treated the move as a mere gesture to buy time. The State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that Syria has consistently refused to destroy its chemical weapons in the past. However, whether said intentionally or not, Kerry's comments have catalyzed an opportunity to defuse the crisis at a moment when Congress is undergoing heated debate over the need for U.S. intervention.