Syria Takes Chemical-Weapon Out, May Dodge U.S. Strike

The U.S. war in Syria is off! Or, at the very least, seriously delayed, now that the Syrian government has reportedly accepted a Russian proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly "agreed to the Russian initiative."

Al-Moallem added that Syria did so to "uproot U.S. aggression."

His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia's initiative.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia is now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which will be presented shortly.

The Russian proposal, and Syria's hasty acceptance, followed John Kerry's off-the-cuff comment on Monday—in which the U.S. secretary of state told reporters that Syria could avoid an American strike if he "turn[ed] over every single bit of his chemical weapons," a possibility Kerry immediately dismissed.

But Syria and Russia, its closest ally on the U.N. Security Council, leaped on the comment, and President Obama expressed a willingness to stand down if the Syrian chemical-weapons handover met U.S. standards. (In an interview with Charlie Rose, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed eager to avoid war.)

So! Maybe an unplanned press-conference line can help us avoid the war that another unplanned press-conference line almost got us into. Not to mention the apocalypse!

Impromptu Comment from Kerry May Have Been the Key to Avoiding War

It turns out that sometimes you might be able to solve problems without bombing a bunch of people who live thousands of miles away. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is learning this after Syria, Russia, and the United Nations all appeared receptive to Kerry's suggestions that Syria hand over all its chemical weapons to "the international community" in order to avert a potential U.S. strike.

The New York Times reports:

Asked at a news conference in London if there were steps the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, could take to avoid an American-led attack, Mr. Kerry said, “Sure, 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.” He immediately dismissed the possibility that Mr. Assad would or could comply, saying, “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.”

While Kerry balked at his own suggestion, other leaders seemed to be taking it into serious consideration. Russia's foreign minister, who had been in meetings with Syria's foreign minister, said Russia would support any plan to confiscate Syria's chemical weapons and destroy them. Others soon followed suit: "In quick succession, the idea of sequestering Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was also endorsed by Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and France foreign minister, Laurent Fabius."


And so a war may have been avoided because John Kerry made an offhanded comment in a press conference. Whatever works, I guess.

[Image via AP]


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