Syria arms offer: Game changer or morass?

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, (not pictured) at the the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 9 September 2013 Mr Kerry also suggested Syria should destroy its chemical weapons, then appeared to dismiss the idea

The proposal to destroy Syria's chemical weapons could be a one-day wonder, but it could also be a game changer.

It could get President Barack Obama off the hook as he looks down the barrel of a likely defeat in Congress.

Or it could leave him in a worse morass than before if the offer is accepted but Bashar al-Assad plays games with weapons inspectors.

The ghost of Iraq still hovers over this conflict.

It is also difficult to say at the moment if the quick succession of Secretary of State John Kerry's musings, the Russian offer, UN encouragement and apparent Syrian acceptance are careful choreography or not.

The White House briefing, which happens soon, will be very important. Watch this space.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Who knew John Kerry was going to save the day?

    All along you couldn't help but think he was just a puppet being told what to do by Obama

    But then Kerry just let it all out like a human being thinking independently

    Assad simply giving up all his chemical weapons with Russia and UN making sure such really happens is the best solution yet

    Thank you John Kerry!!! ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    This is the obvious way out. Assad has good reason to agree to give up his weapons, only Putin could ask him to do it. Did secret G8 talks lead us to this point? Who knows - if it averts a wider conflict, who cares. The priority must be to get these weapons beyond use, then to build a political solution. Let us hope that Russia will push it through and the US has the sense to let it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    It's possible that the Russian offer is the result of a Obama-Putin deal; Putin makes offer to show support for peaceful resolution, appease domestic audience and diffuse tensions with US. Obama uses Putin's offer as an external 'red line' because he knows that Syria won't comply with the request, takes it to congress, wins the vote, Russia agrees Syria have had their chance. Bombs away!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    ref #43
    43.David Skene-Melvin
    8 Minutes ago
    Regretfully, the current USA political atmosphere as filtered into Canada appears that it's a Republican for the next President

    Never underestimate the stupidy of voters, a man with no qualifications was elected and than after failing relected. His opponents a national hero and a sucessful businessman and governor

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.


    Canada's current administration makes the GOP look like wet liberals - if Canada had international clout, the world would surely be worried...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    But I thought the Syrians said recently that they didn't have any chemical weapons? No one knows exactly how many they have, so they'll keep some, and have the perfect cover to use them again and blame the rebels/terrorists.

    Putin called Kerry's bluff. That's fine. Now the US should call Putin's bluff and have Russia guarantee that all Syrian chem. weapons are presented and destroyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Regretfully, the current USA political atmosphere as filtered into Canada appears that it's a Republican for the next President. Mrs Clinton being past her "use before date", Obama has delivered a fatal wound to any other Democrat candidate, even Kerry with his "Hardtalk".

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    History always provides useful perspective: the danger of drawing red lines is the temptation to one's opponent to cross them out of ingrained Human Nature. Whether it be Adam & Eve and the Forbidden fruit, Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, 1962 Cuban Missiles. JFK under intense pressure from all his advisers to attack, reached out to USSR and won Peace for Mankind. That explains Dallas Nov 63

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    ref #35

    No Putin is trying to keep a client state happy and under his thumb. the authoratarian ones he is losing to china, profressive states wants nothing to do with him.
    He also does want to get his butt kicked by the U.S or Israelis

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Syria is a no-win situation. Take the offer and the let Russia be responsible for the result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    @HGDUK #35
    Obama is probably the last one to want to go to war. Obama is very anti-colonization and actually wants to stand up for the underdogs. Here the Syrian people are the underdogs, and if any side gets away with using chemical weapons then it will come back to haunt not just the USA but the world. No one should be allowed to use chemical weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    This deal will keep Assad in power and since the Americans and the Israelis want nothing less than regime change like what happened in Libya and Iraq, the attack will continue.
    Regime change for all the enemies of Israel, that is the objective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    President Obama has been wrong footed by Putin, & its getting worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    re. #31 by bespkesman:

    Any respect Obama might glean for abiding by a no vote by Congress will be more than offset by the appearance that Assad called his bluff and he let Congress tell him to throw his hand in. He really should have taken his case to the UN and tried for some sort of resolution there. Even if unsuccessful he, and the U.S., wouldn't come out looking as bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Only the Russian could come up with this idea, at least they are trying to initiate a peaceful resolution to all this mess. All the UK, French and American want is an all out war!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I think Obama's plea to Americans will be the same "evidence" he's been presenting to Congress. Namely that the red line on CW was the international community's, not his. That even so, the US's credibility as world leader that keeps its word, is on the line. I think some representatives are buying it. But it'll be wonderful if a congressional vote can stop Operation Save Face. Putin doubts it can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    An attack on Syria would be among other things Obama really sticking his finger in Putin's eye.That alone makes it worth it.How many clients states has Russia lost?All of Eastern Europe, many former Soviet slave colonies like Georgia, Iraq, Libya, and now maybe Syria.Just a few bad actors left.NKorea, Venezuela, Iran.The evil empire is shrinking. If the wicked witch isn't dead yet it's dying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    31Correct.When Secretary Seward bought Alaska for $67 million many Americans called it Seward's folly and Seward's Ice Box.When gold was discovered there they stopped laughing.Obama's analysis is correct, his intended course of action is correct, if anything on the weak side.McCain got it right this time.We'll know in a few days, a week or two at most what will happen.Russia offered, not Syria

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    A majority of pundits - M. Mardell included - believe that (politically) Obama has built himself a trap from which he cannot escape. I disagree. This may well be his finest hour. I takes a lot of courage for a politician to defer to the will of his (her) constituency, and I believe history will judge his decision positively; but only if he abides by Congress' vote. Democracy must prevail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    A possible diplomatic resolution, even narrowly tailered to CWs, gives hope.

    The proposed resolution from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, use of force as CW use deterrent, could be effective if Assad is certain his regime would endure, but to then call for further support for his overthrow, suggests the resolution is at odds with itself, leaving the objectives of force uncertain.


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