WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says a proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control to avoid U.S. military strikes could be a potential breakthrough.
Obama told NBC News in an interview Monday that he remains skeptical that Syria will follow through and turn over its stockpile, so he’s taking a statement from Damascus, quote, “with a grain of salt initially.” But he says he would prefer to have a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than launch a military attack, and called it “a potentially positive development.”
Secretary of State John Kerry suggested earlier Monday that Syria could avoid a potential U.S. air attack by putting its chemical weapons under international control. Syria’s ally Russia quickly took the idea to Syria’s foreign minister, who said Damascus welcomes the proposal.
As a political matter, the president has run into problems securing an authorization from Congress for the use of military force in Syria. Democratic members clearly sense that the public mood is against intervention, and are hesitant to go against popular opinion in order to help out Obama. Republicans, meanwhile, were never really in the game of helping out this administration in the first place.
So while Russia’s offer to broker a potential diplomatic solution to the crisis didn’t change the nature of the Syria conflict, it potentially altered the politics of the matter. And as one long-time Republican strategist put it “Russia may have given the president a way out of a difficult political situation”.
“It looks like Obama drew an inside straight here,” said the strategist.