Syria Strike Averted -- by Accident!
So, Secretary of State John Kerry was traveling in Britain yesterday and when a reporter asked him at a news conference whether there was any way that Syria could now avoid being struck as retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on its own people. Kerry harrumphed, in a tone of yah, right, like it would ever really happen, that there was one way: "He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week -- turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting,"
But whaddaya know -- Russia's foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said it wasn't a half-bad idea and ran with it.
Britain, France, Syria, and the U.N. all basically said, "Phew -- that's a great idea!" -- and everyone scrambled to see if such a deal were feasible.
Russia, Syria's ally, could basically lead the effort. Lavrov said at a news conference: "We don't know whether Syria will agree with this," he said, "but if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus. And we will call on the Syrian leadership to not only agree to putting the chemical weapons storage sites under international control but also to their subsequent destruction."
Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, indicated he liked the idea, though it remained to be seen what Bashar al-Assad would say about it. Assad was interviewed by CBS anchor Charlie Rose in a segment that aired last night. He was a sly fox, saying that if the U.S. strikes, "You should expect everything" in retaliation -- maybe even a chemical weapons attack and "not necessarily from the government." Such retaliation would depend on "if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it," he said. "It could happen, I don't know. I am not fortuneteller."
Obama said that he was skeptical of the whole deal -- but that he'd accept this plan "with a grain of salt" and that it was a half-decent idea "if it's real."
But an indication that it was a ray of hope: The Senate was supposed to have a vote today on whether to strike Syria, but Harry Reid struck it from the agenda, meaning any such vote wouldn't happen until next week at least, analysts say.
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