Yesterday, after Russia endorsed Secretary of State John Kerry’s suggested course on Syria’s chemical weapons, Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, quickly expressed support for the idea. The Syrian official did not, however, fully and formally embrace the proposal on behalf of the Assad government.
Today, Syria went further.
Syria confirmed it would accept a Russian-brokered proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control Tuesday, just hours after France announced it would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking a similar plan.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told Russia’s lower parliament that Damascus had agreed to the plan in order to “remove the grounds for American aggression,” according to a report by the Interfax state news agency.
His statement sounded more definitive than remarks Monday, when the Syrian foreign minister said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.
International backing for the idea also appears to be growing – not only did U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon express support for the possible solution, but Iran and China said they’re on board, too. Officials in Britain, France, and Germany soon followed.
Indeed, just hours ago, France moved forward on proposing a United Nations Security Council resolution to help formalize the framework. France, of course, has been one of the world’s strongest supporters of President Obama’s plans for military intervention in Syria.
Given all of this, there’s clearly some diplomatic momentum towards a solution to the crisis, and I imagine there’s a temptation among many to start celebrating.
But while I hope this resolution to the crisis comes together quickly, let’s not get too excited just yet.
Note, for example, that Russian officials said they’re working with Damascus on a “workable, precise and concrete plan.” In other words, there is no actual plan as of now, and there’s no timetable as to how the plan will come together, and who might have input as to the integrity of the framework.
For all we know, several weeks or months from now, Russia and Syria might announce, “We’re still working on it.” Needless to say, the U.S. is looking for a more expedited process.
What’s more, the New York Times report added that the specificity of diplomatic language always matters, and analysts said Syria’s remarks in support of the solution “fell short of an unambiguous pledge by Syria to give up its arsenal.”
Indeed, as recently as yesterday, the Assad government wasn’t even prepared to acknowledge that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles exist, despite the international consensus.
For that matter, even if there’s international agreement on the pending idea, “even an invasive inspection program can take years to account for chemical stockpiles and never be certain of complete compliance.”
So, let’s keep the champagne on ice. I’m sure everyone is hoping for the best, and there’s reason for cautious optimism, but the crisis is ongoing, high-level meetings will continue in Washington and elsewhere today, and President Obama is still scheduled to deliver a national address this evening from the White House.