Obama Takes Credit for Syrian Offer to Give Up Chemical Weapons

Posted September 9, 2013 at 1:56pm

An offhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could escape a U.S. strike if it gives up its chemical weapons seemed to be leading to a possible way out of the crisis Monday afternoon.

Kerry said at a London news conference that Syria could avoid an attack if it turned over every bit of chemical weapons — and Russia and Syria made statements that seemed to take him up on the offer. Syria would turn over its chemical weapons to the international community for destruction, according to the statements, in an effort to avoid a U.S. strike.

By Monday afternoon, the White House was taking credit for the movement but insisted it did not undermine its push to have Congress vote to give the president authorization for military action.

“We need to keep the pressure on,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said would be the message to Congress. “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal is because of the U.S. threat of military action.”

Carney and Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Monday that they would take a “hard look” at the proposal by the Russian government but the administration has its doubts given the Syria government’s past behavior.

But with a congressional vote dicey, the potential diplomatic breakthrough could offer a way out of the mess, and lawmakers were hopeful a strike could be averted.

“I have read the announcement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that his country has asked Syria to transfer control of its chemical weapons to international monitors for destruction to prevent an international strike. I would welcome such a move,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also backed the idea Monday afternoon, noting as Carney did that it came as a result of a credible threat of military force, and urged Congress to support President Barack Obama’s request for authorization to strike.