Obama agrees to U.N. talks over Syria

Updated

In Congress, prominent Republicans continue to abandon their own foreign policy views to announce their opposition to U.S. using force in Syria – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fell off the fence this morning, and he was soon followed by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – but away from Capitol Hill, the larger dynamic continues to change quickly.

President Barack Obama has agreed to discuss Russia’s proposal that Syria hand over chemical weapons, the White House said Tuesday after Damascus confirmed it would accept such a deal.

Talks will begin at the United Nations later Tuesday, a White House official told NBC News, even as Obama prepares to address Congress – and the American people – to make the case for authorization to use military strikes if diplomatic solutions fail.

As recently as yesterday, we expected President Obama’s White House address to focus on his administration’s case for military intervention. Now, I’m more or less expecting that he’ll let us know the latest updates on the ongoing diplomatic efforts.

It’s worth emphasizing again that the crisis has not dissipated, and it’s quite likely that Obama will continue to stress the military option, if for no other reason that the White House believes it’s the threat of force that’s creating the impetus for diplomacy. As seen in the video posted above, Secretary of State John Kerry made this argument explicitly to Congress this morning.

“Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging,” Kerry told the House Armed Services Committee. He added that the administration is open to the proposed solution, adding, “We’re waiting for that proposal but we’re not waiting for long.”

Kerry went on to tell lawmakers that the threat of military action “is more compelling if the Congress stands with the commander in chief,” a sentiment that a growing number of lawmakers apparently disagree with.

Regardless, British Prime Minister David Cameron also indicated this morning that Britain would join the U.S. and France in proposing a U.N. Security Council resolution quite soon.

Indeed, the debate over wording is apparently already underway.

The New York Times reported:

Diplomats at the United Nations said the French had begun to share the text of a resolution drafted by France, which the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, announced earlier Tuesday, that would include the threat of force to ensure compliance. One of the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said of the discussions that “we’re looking at a process that will last a few days.”

The diplomacy at the United Nations could prove awkward for Russia, which started the process with its proposal on Syria’s chemical munitions. As a permanent Security Council member, it has thrice vetoed previous Western-sponsored resolutions that would authorize force to help resolve the conflict in Syria, now in its third year.

On a related note, there are also new talks underway in the Senate – the institution that was set to vote tomorrow on a resolution authorizing the use of force – where a bipartisan group of lawmakers are crafting a reworked measure that would, among other things, “set a deadline for establishing United Nations control of the arsenal.” A failure to meet the deadline would trigger the authorization of military force.

Foreign Policy and Syria

Obama agrees to U.N. talks over Syria

Updated