Thursday night, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council agreed to a resolution that will require Syria to surrender its chemical weapons. While the resolution includes no automatic consequences if Syria fails to comply, the deal – if it's approved by the rest of the Security Council – represents a major change for the United States and President Obama, who just weeks ago seemed ready to order a military strike.
"Just two weeks ago, tonight's outcome seemed utterly unimaginable," Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told Reuters. "Two weeks ago, the Syrian regime had not even acknowledged the existence of its chemical weapons stockpiles. But tonight we have a shared draft resolution that was the outcome of intense diplomacy and negotiations over the past two weeks."
Negotiations for the deal took days, with Russia reportedly objecting to resolution being written under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which includes the Security Council's ability to enforce violations with military force or sanctions.
That objection led to the resolution's lack of automatic response if Syria were to fail to comply; if such a failure occurs, the Security Council would reconvene to discuss sanctions or military action, both of which Russia could veto. Even so, Powers, the US Ambassador, seemed optimistic, telling the New York Times that the “resolution makes clear there will be consequences for noncompliance.”
And a US State Department official said the agreement represented a "breakthrough."
"The Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons," the official said.
A Security Council vote on the resolution could come as as early as Friday night, if the Hague's Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons votes on its own Syria measure early Friday.
[Image via AP]