Even as the entire US Senate was in a classified briefing by the president's national security team,the talk in Washington and the news media swirled around a Russian proposal,welcomed by Syria,that the Assad regime's chemical weapons be placed under international control.It is being taken so seriously that a procedural vote in the Senate on military action against Syria slated for Thursday was postponed while the proposal is checked out.
Experts pointed out that reliably emptying Syria of its vast stockpile of chemical weapons would require a ceasefire in the civil war,and a long period for inspectors to go in and document the weapons and remove them.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said we'll talk to the Russians about it and see where it goes.Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said this is a shaky moment,and a fascinating moment about how this turns out.The challenge for the president is,the American people aren't there.
President Barack Obama himself said we're gonna run this to ground to see if we can arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.We don't want just a stalling and delaying tactic.It may be Assad is under pressure from his allies.If we don't maintain a credible threat,I don't think we will get the type of agreement we want to see,Mr.Obama warned.
Senator Bob Corker,R-Tennessee,said if it's real,and if Syria is willing to make immediate concrete steps,that's certainly worth looking at.But it's very difficult to tell if it's that,or just a way of creating a fog around the whole issue.
That view was echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham,R-South Carolina.
The Russians know that their proposal will at least slow down the decision-making process in Washington,giving Syria extra time to prepare for an attack;they also know that,at the most,it could sap the will of Congress to endorse the president's mililtary action plan;and if the Russian proposal were accepted,the Syrians could drag their feet the whole way,while squirreling away a significant part of their stockpile.