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article imageOp-Ed: Russia and Syria call Kerry's bluff on chemical weapons

By Ken Hanly     Sep 9, 2013 in Politics
Moscow - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said after talks in Moscow that Syria welcomes a Russian proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control.
Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had called a news conference to announce the proposal. The announcement is a bombshell--so to speak. Before Lavrov's announcement Reuters reports: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier on Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, but immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer."
The Syrian Foreign Minister praised the plan as seeking to "prevent American aggression". While welcoming the proposal, al-Moualem did not say that the Syrian government would accept the proposal. While this was going on Assad was busy warning what might be the response to a US attack in a CBS television interview.
It would make sense for Assad to accept the proposal. He probably does not want his arsenal to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists any more than the West. This would be a win-win situation for everyone except for extremists.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that he would urge Syria to concentrate its chemical weapons in specific areas under international control and then dismantle them. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he might ask at the Security Council that it demand that Syria move its chemical weapons to sites where they can be safely stored and destroyed. With Russia on board, this move would almost certainly force Assad to agree. Otherwise, he might face action against him that would be sanctioned by the UN. Ban also suggested that he might ask the Security Council to demand that Assad join the International anti-chemical weapons convention a treaty that so far it has not signed. The Washington Post reports that the Syrian government welcomed the proposal of Russia but this may be somewhat premature although it would seem in Syria's interest to do so: The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said it welcomed a Russian proposal to avert U.S. military strikes by having Damascus turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors.
In Washington, Tony Blinken, deputy national security adviser said that the US would welcome any decision by Syria to give up its chemical weapons but expressed skepticism it would so so. During a White House new briefing he said: , “We want to take a hard look at the proposal. We would welcome Assad giving up his chemical weapons and doing it in a verifiable manner,”
Blinken claims that Assad has a poor record on keeping his promises. However, with Russia demanding that he take this course of action Assad may very well comply since otherwise he may face military action sanctioned by the UN. These developments may cause consternation and disarray within the Obama administration which was engaged in a massive blitz to convince the American public and the US Congress that Obama should launch an attack on Syria. Another Irony in the situation is that Russia,, often criticized for blocking any action on Syria, has now made a crucial move that might alleviate a key concern of most parties to the conflict, chemical weapons falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Syrian civil war, Chemical weapons, John kerry
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