When Mr Kerry let slip that putting the chemical weapons out of use could prevent a US military strike, the Russians went into overdrive. They made a proposal to Syria to put their chemical arsenal under new supervision. Syria has a made a positive response to the idea. We n ow learn that Mr Obama had also discussed this with Mr Putin at the G20.
I would urge the President and his Secretary of State to take this offer seriously, and sit down and discuss what it means, and how it might be implemented. The rest of the world will not be pleased if an apparently fair offer to deal with the issue that the US has highlighted is not properly examined.
Of course the US can seek proper guarantees and assurances. The UN might wish to make an independent and useful contribution, seeking to find a way forward which reassures all who do not wish to see chemical weapons in use that the Assad regime’s stockpiles cannot in future be used in this conflict.
It may be difficult to resolve this offer fully before the vote in Congress. It is a complication over the debate and vote. As the US administration says it sole concern prompting military action is the future use of chemical weapons, any sensible Congressman or woman would want this offer to be fully explored before thinking of military action. It argues for delay to the vote, or argues for a conditional vote in Congress, with Congress considering later military action if the latest diplomatic initiative does not produce a negotiated settlement of the chemical weapons issue.
Meanwhile the Congress also needs to weigh the heavy news from Syria concerning some rebel attacks on Christian settlements.The BBC has highlighted the plight of the Christians driven out of Maaloula, reminding us that not all the anti Assad forces are benign democrats.