Did John Kerry Just Solve the Syrian Crisis by Accident?
Sometimes solutions to the most difficult crises can come across accidentally. On Monday, September 9, Secretary of State John Kerry made a remark in London, while addressing the press with his British colleague, that the U.S. will not consider a military action against Syria if Assad surrenders his chemical weapons. Very quickly after that, the reaction came from Moscow. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs called Secretary Kerry to inform him that Syria agrees to put its chemical weapons under the supervision of the international community.
This gaffe by Kerry has a high chance of becoming the solution to the crisis about American military intervention against the Syrian government. Furthermore, the chances are high because it can be a way for the Obama administration to avoid a historical nay vote in Congress. As of today, 167 Members of Congress have publicly stated that they are going to have a negative vote on the White House's initiative. On the other hand, only 23 members expressed that they would support the intervention. This means that if the vote happened today, the resolution for authorizing the intervention against Syrian troops would most probably have not been adopted.
For the administration, that would mean a great failure. It would lose its already low authority on the Hill. Moreover, at the same time the majority of the American people do not support any military involvement in Syria. Presidential approval rating for foreign policy initiatives has fallen to an historical low, as reported by CNN, of only 40% of the population supporting it. In the very case of Syria, Only 3 out of 10 Americans support the president's call for intervention. For these reasons, Secretary Kerry's gaffe comes at the right moment.
If everything goes according to a newly enacted plan, the administration can avoid a major embarrassment, and the atrocities of another war can be avoided. It seems that this would be the best way for the president to withdraw the resolution that calls for the military involvement without seeming weak. In addition, he can emphasize how diplomacy won again. However, the question that will most probably arise after this would be why this was not the solution from the beginning and why did we have to go through this theatre of hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill and abroad if we could have had the diplomatic solution from the very start of the chemical weapons crisis?
The administration does have an answer to that question already. They claim that without the threat of military action this whole option would not be available. There may be some truth in that statement. Yet, it cannot but seem that this gaffe was the best thing that happened to the administration since the whole crisis started.
Many things are unknown at this moment. It remains to be seen what will happen tonight at the scheduled meeting of the UN Security Council. France has stated that they will sponsor the resolution that would put the Syrian chemical weapons under international supervision. But, most importantly, it is to be seen whether and how will Russia and Syria follow up on their promise. If they do, yet another suffering of the Syrian people can be averted.