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The United States voiced skepticism Monday over a proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control to avoid a U.S. military strike. The State Department said it would take a "hard look" at the proposal but doubted that Syria would carry out such a plan.
The proposal came after Secretary of State John Kerry said in London that Syrian President Bashar Assad could end the crisis by turning over all his chemical weapons. Harf said Kerry wasn't putting forth a formal proposal.
Hours later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promised to push its ally Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control and then dismantle them quickly to avert U.S. strikes, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem quickly embraced the proposal. That was followed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also urged Syria to agree.
"Syria welcomes the Russian proposal out of concern for the lives of the Syrian people, the security of our country and because it believes in the wisdom of the Russian leadership that seeks to avert American aggression against our people," al-Moallem said during a visit to Moscow, where he met with Lavrov.
Meanwhile, the White House continued to build its case for a strike against Syria, with Obama taping six television network interviews late Monday and administration officials briefing more members of Congress as they returned from summer recess.
U.S. officials in Washington initially said they were surprised by Kerry's comments, which came at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and in response to a question about what, if anything, Assad could do to stop the U.S. from punishing it for the use of chemical weapons.
Obama's Successful Foreign Failure
Even members of his own party are despairingly echoing in private the public denunciations of him as "incompetent," "bungling," "feckless," "amateurish" and "in over his head" coming from his political opponents on the right.
For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days—and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.
Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us—and I think it is—let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish. The accomplishment would not have been possible if the intention had been too obvious. The skill lies in how effectively he has used rhetorical tricks to disguise it.