As my colleague Josh Vorhees noticed today, Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have accidentally anticipated, then dismissed, an offer on Syria from the Russians. “He could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,” said Kerry, half-joking about how Bashar al-Assad could cut a path out of this impasse. Hours later, the Russians proposed just that, and the Assad regime gave it a tentative thumbs up.
This puts the United States in the awkward position of acknowledging the existence of a plan that 1) would obviously be preferable to war but 2) may be an epic act of trolling. And members of Congress are walking around door No. 1.
“It’s worth pursuing,” said House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon before entering today’s closed briefing on Syria with DNI James Clapper. “Anything that save us from going into another war is worth pursuing.”
Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat, speculated that “what Putin has offered may be a game-changer” and could “in the short run be considered mission accomplished.”
“At this point it’s just a rhetorical shift,” he said, “but it’s in the right direction, and if he follows it up by getting the Security Council in play, it could be a very helpful development. Everything that avoids a vote on the House floor would be helpful. … There’s no downside in taking in seriously.”
In a statement, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin sounded a note of hopeful skepticism.
“It’s long overdue that Russia weigh in to get its client state to give up its chemical weapons and abide by international law,” he said. “If Russia is serious, and not just helping Syria stall, it could make a difference. But we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high given Syria’s past behavior and Russia’s lockstep support for Syria with weapons and with its United Nations veto.”