Syria Agrees To Russian Plan To Turn Over Chemical Weapons, Obama Remains Skeptical
A surprising decision Tuesday may prevent the U.S. from striking Syria.
Syria said that it will agrees to Russia's proposal to put its chemical weapons in international hands, with the goal of dismantling them. According to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, the proposal was accepted largely to "uproot U.S. aggression."
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the two countries are working on a plan of action which will be released soon. The plan will then be finalized by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The move towards surrendering chemical weapons happened after Secretary of State John Kerry made comments about Syria's ability to prevent a U.S. attack by handing over "every single bit" of their chemical weapons to the international community within the next week.
While the White House initially said that the comment was rhetorical, and that there was no way Syria would comply, Russia quickly took up the challenge of convincing their allies to take the out. France also jumped on board, saying that it would submit a resolution to the United Nations calling for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons or face "extremely serious" consequences. France hopes that by bringing the resolution to the table U.N. members will be able to more accurately judge the intentions of Russia and another Syrian ally, China. Both countries have the capability to block a UN resolution and have used the power to protect Syria in the past.
The French resolution would create a plan for dismantling chemical weapons, create consequences for violating the agreement, and would seek to bring those responsible for the attack to justice. France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius admits: that's quite a tall order. “It’s something that’s difficult to do, that takes take time, and is very complicated in the middle of conflict," he said.
On Monday, President Obama said that an agreement with Russia could be a "potentially significant breakthrough" but hinted that he remained skeptical that the transfer of arms would go off without a hitch.
Of course, not everyone is excited about the possibility of resolving Syria's chemical weapons problem peacefully. Syria's rebel forces remain skeptical about the possibility of President Bashar al Assad's regime actually handing over all of its weapons and say that the lack of force will only help Assad.
"We need immediate accountability. I doubt very much that the regime would give up its stockpile of chemical weapons just to avert a strike,” said Khalid Saleh, official spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, in an interview with the Daily Beast. Resistance forces are also looking to a potential strike to help them gain some ground in the more than two-year old war against the Assad regime.