So, let’s get this straight… Yesterday, while answering questions at a press conference in London, Secretary of State John Kerry lets slip a verbal gaffe, suggesting that Assad can avoid having bombs dropped on his country if he’d only “turn over his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week” (and immediately discounted it by saying “but he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously”).
This is the quote that, allegedly, started it all:
Or is it?
President Obama told Gwen Ifill of PBS that he and Vladimir Putin had discussed this idea at the G20. If that’s so, why did it take an apparent “gaffe” by John Kerry to get the ball rolling? Why didn’t our president step up and say that there’s a diplomatic way out of an attack to explore? Why did it come from everyone but us, when our only idea was to lob bombs at a county that didn’t threaten us directly?
After Kerry’s “off the cuff” remark, all of a sudden a diplomatic solution appeared possible. Prior to that moment, we were told it was an all or nothing approach. Either we bomb Syria or we do nothing. Those were our two choices. According to the “news” Russian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem quickly jumped on the idea and sprang into action.
As Steve Benen at Maddowblog explains:
International backing for the idea also appears to be growing — not only did U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon express support for the possible solution, but Iran and China said they’re on board, too. Officials in Britain, France, and Germany soon followed.
Indeed, just hours ago, France moved forward on proposing a United Nations Security Council resolution to help formalize the framework. France, of course, has been one of the world’s strongest supporters of President Obama’s plans for military intervention in Syria.
Given all of this, there’s clearly some diplomatic momentum towards a solution to the crisis, and I imagine there’s a temptation among many to start celebrating.
But while I hope this resolution to the crisis comes together quickly, let’s not get too excited just yet.
Note, for example, that Russian officials said they’re working with Damascus on a “workable, precise and concrete plan.” In other words, there is no actual plan as of now, and there’s no timetable as to how the plan will come together, and who might have input as to the integrity of the framework.
For all we know, several weeks or months from now, Russia and Syria might announce, “We’re still working on it.” Needless to say, the U.S. is looking for a more expedited process.
What’s more, the New York Times report added that the specificity of diplomatic language always matters, and analysts said Syria’s remarks in support of the solution “fell short of an unambiguous pledge by Syria to give up its arsenal.”
Indeed, as recently as yesterday, the Assad government wasn’t even prepared to acknowledge that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles exist, despite the international consensus.
For that matter, even if there’s international agreement on the pending idea, “even an invasive inspection program can take years to account for chemical stockpiles and never be certain of complete compliance.”
So, let’s keep the champagne on ice. I’m sure everyone is hoping for the best, and there’s reason for cautious optimism, but the crisis is ongoing, high-level meetings will continue in Washington and elsewhere today, and President Obama is still scheduled to deliver a national address this evening from the White House.
I had already booked former CIA analyst and now member of Veteran Intelligent Professional for Sanity, Ray McGovern on the show this morning, as his op-ed “To persuade skeptics about Syria, Obama should follow Reagan’s example” appears in the Miami Herald. Of course, I asked him about this development right at the start of our conversation.
I’d summarize his response was skeptical but hopeful. I encourage you to listen to the entire interview.
GottaLaff joined in, as she does each Tuesday morning. Today, we talked about Syria, and these stories from The Political Carnival too: