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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Lavrov Gambit

Interesting developments overnight have again changed the course of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis:


President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a “potentially positive development,” that could represent a “significant breakthrough,” but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.

Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and and Will Englund – Obama sees potential ‘breakthrough’ in Russia’s Syria proposal Washington Post 10 Sep 13

Clearly a positive development and a significant shift in the Syrian and Russian position. A vindication for Obama’s tough policy on the use of chemical weapons one would suppose? One might think it ridiculous to use this development to justify a vote against authorising Obama’s free hand to apply the military pressure which brought it about in the first instance.  

Furthermore, Russia is even proposing compliance with the proposed amendment, which was largely ignored, to insist that Syria sign and comply with the convention:


On Monday, while meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country will avoid strikes, we will immediately begin working with Damascus,” Lavrov said. “We call on the Syrian leadership not only to agree on a statement of storage of chemical weapons under international supervision, but also to their subsequent destruction.”

Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and and Will Englund – Obama sees potential ‘breakthrough’ in Russia’s Syria proposal Washington Post 10 Sep 13

Notice the conditional “If… will avoid strikes… then…” phrasing of that statement? Think about it. To continue, in the face of this development, to advocate for a ‘no’ vote seems to be tactically flawed and calculated to pull the rug out from under a reasonable president at a most inopportune moment. We’ll see.


57 comments

  1. fogiv

    what’s that old thing TR used to talk about?  something about speaking softly and a big stick?

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    *ok, that’s a lie.  :)

  2. creamer

    He has played this for month’s. He obviously doesn’t have to deal with the domestic politics Obama does. He wants to be relevant and suddenly is a peace broker. If Obama and Vlad set this up, it’s a tribute to their pragmatism.

     I tend to think they stumbled into it. That good enough for me. This will give congresspersons enough cover to authorize force, preferably with language pursuing diplomacy.

      I really believe Obama has been searching for a way out of ordering the Tommahwks. Hope they can pull this off.

     

  3. Hedwig

    But many will…

    i.e. The only leverage we have is if the Congress moves forward on the AUMF.

    Will be interesting to see who gets that.

  4. Shaun Appleby

    French Foreign Minister saying they will immediately formally submit a resolution to the UNSC in support of the Russian proposal.


  5. BREAKING NEWS Tuesday, September 10, 2013 11:58 AM EDT

    White House Agrees to Talks on U.N. Resolution on Syrian Chemical Arms

    A bipartisan group of eight senators and the White House joined the international diplomatic momentum on Tuesday to avert an American military attack on Syria over its use of chemical munitions in that country’s civil war, responding positively to a Russian proposal aimed at securing and destroying those weapons.

    The group of senators, including some of President Obama’s biggest supporters and critics, were drafting an alternative Congressional resolution that would give the United Nations time to take control of the Syrian government’s arsenal of the internationally banned weapons.

    If the alternative resolution gained political traction, it could stave off a Congressional vote – and possibly a debilitating defeat for the Obama administration – in the coming days on a more immediate resolution authorizing the use of force, which a majority of Americans appear to oppose. That resolution, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, had been losing ground in both parties in recent days. Passage appeared increasingly difficult in the House and possibly the Senate as well.

    At the same time, a senior White House official said Tuesday that administration officials had begun working with American allies at the United Nations to further explore the viability of the Russian plan, in which the international community would take control of the Syrian weapons stockpile. The official said the discussions, including possible elements of a Security Council resolution, followed discussions between President Obama, President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain.

    READ MORE »

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09

    Heading off a “debilitating defeat for the Obama administration”? Er … no.

  6. Shaun Appleby

    The world isn’t used to diplomatic current events. For those of us who recall the Paris peace talks there is the anticipation of the dull ache that these historical wrangles provide. And we’re off:


    Mr Lavrov told his French counterpart Laurent Fabius on Tuesday that it would not countenance a resolution threatening Syria with force.

    “Mr Lavrov stressed that France’s proposal to seek approval at the UN Security Council for a resolution… that puts the responsibility for the possible use of chemical weapons on the Syrian authorities is unacceptable,” the Russian foreign ministry added in a statement.

    Syria conflict: Disputes flare over UN resolution BBC 10 Sep 13

    Clearly the Russians will have to concede something; how do they expect to navigate the UN findings of the inspection team? Though these will not identify the attacker the detailed chemical analysis may prove incriminating. And what of the Chinese in this? We should flush them out of the shadows.

    It seems to me that a resolution which is not under Chapter 7 is unacceptable under the circumstances, another sticking point with the Russians; we are about to learn a lot about the workings of the UN Security Council:


    Chapter 7 of UN Charter

    – Action in response to threats to peace, breaches of peace and acts of aggression

    – Article 41 enables Security Council to decide measures not involving armed force

    – Can suspend economic and diplomatic relations as well as rail, sea and other communications

    – If Article 41 measures are inadequate, Article 42 enables Security Council to take action by air, sea or land forces for international peace and security

    UN

    I’m guessing we need to press this issue immediately and firmly while the Russians are still basking in the warm glow of world opinion. And hard; all we need is for Congress to back up Obama. Oh, wait… This is going to be interesting.

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