REUTERS/Sergei ChirikovSyrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that Syria will not fulfill a chemical weapons initiative unless the U.S. stops threatening to strike Syria and " ceases arms deliveries to terrorists."
The statement, no doubt coordinated with the Kremlin, attempts to put Washington (and France) in a bind: Either cancel any plans to potentially attack Syria , as well as arms shipments to rebels, or say goodbye to the diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The ultimatum is remarkable given that the White House contend that the diplomatic opening was a "clear result of the pressure" brought by Obama's threat of force, and America's strategy in Syria involves training and arming vetted Syrian rebels.
Furthermore, the "diplomatic solution" of securing and destroying a massive WMD stockpile in an active war zone is unprecedented and arguably impossible — and that's assuming Assad is actually willing to give up all 1,400 tons of chemical weapons Syria has procured over decades to deter Israel.
Nevertheless, Syria is taking the first steps of the chemical disarmament process: Assad said Syria will apply to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons, and then reveal where its chemical weapons are stored and other details a month after signing the convention.
After that, the process would involve passing a U.N. Security Council resolution as well as ensuring operational and technical hurdles, both of which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are discussing right now.
France, meanwhile, "remains determined to punish the use of chemical weapons" by Assad's regime and insists that any U.N. Security Council resolution should have a threat of force if diplomacy fails.
And U.S. Senate lawmakers are working on a resolution that would authorize strikes against Syria if diplomatic efforts fail. Voting could start next week.
All in all, Assad's offer is a deft move because it makes it look like the only thing restricting the diplomatic solution is American aggression. But it's also unacceptable for the West since it would sap the opposition while giving Assad every reason to stall while the war grinds on.
During that time Assad would not be accountable for using chemical weapons on Syrian civilians (not to mention ruthlessly bombing them), which is exactly what Assad and Russia would want since they both deny that chemical attacks by the Assad regime ever happened.
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