It looks like Syria was paying attention to a "rhetorical" challenge by John Kerry — and for once, we may have good news.
The country has agreed to "consider" a proposition by Russia, which would involve Syria placing its own chemical weapons under international control, and then seeing them destroyed.
The road to (sort of) agreement kicked off with John Kerry, who said Monday that Syrian President Bashar al Assad could avoid a punitive military strike by the U.S. — if the president would "turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week... without delay, and allow the full and total accounting for that.”
Kerry probably didn't think the (slightly idealistic) statement would have much of an impact. Still, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the opportunity to encourage Syria — an ally of Russia — to place all of their chemical weapons in officially designated areas, and then begin the process of dismantling them. He added that Russian leaders would try their hardest to pressure Syria into a peaceful resolution.
A few hours later, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem responded that Syrian leaders would actually welcome a proposal from Russia, he said, to place chemical weapons (which, of course, are what the Assad regime is accused of using on Syrian civilians) under international control, and then destroying them. Still, Syria didn't offer a time frame for the relinquishing of its weapons, and didn't add any more specifics.
Susan Rice also chimed into the debate Monday. Rice emphasized that chemical weapons were "weapons of mass destruction" (intonations of Iraq, anyone?) and entirely separate from normal arms — "wholly indiscriminate," she added, in their "scope and scale." Since the U.S. has exhausted all other options in response to the chemical attack, she said, the use of military force might be necessary.
In response to criticism that America is overtaking the United Nations' effort to resolve the conflict, Rice added that the approval of the UN would prove futile, as it has in the past. Meanwhile, the UN's chief secretary urged Syria Monday to adhere to requests to hand over their chemical weapons.
Twenty-five countries, said the White House Monday, currently support America's stance on Assad. Rice told NBC News Tuesday that the administration was "quite confident" that Congress will vote the go-ahead on a Syria strike. Even if they didn't, the White House would retain the authority to order strikes if it wishes — but doing so, in spite of House, public, and international support, would place a heavy toll of blame against Obama.
A CNN/ORC International poll has found that seven in ten American citizens don't believe that striking Syria would advance U.S. goals — even though eighty percent of those polled believed that Assad was the one to order a gas attack on his own civilians.