Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insinuated Monday evening that any deal that would have Syria’s dictator Bashar Al-Assad dismantling his chemical weapons should be credited to the Committee’s vote to authorize U.S. military force against Assad’s regime.
Corker, who voted last week with the majority of Committee Democrats and a few Republicans to approve President Barack Obama’s request for military authorization in Syria, thinks the deal would not be on the table without his and other committee members’ votes.
“While at this point I have healthy skepticism that this offer will change the situation and it will be several days before we can fully determine its credibility, I do know that it never would have been floated if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had not approved the authorization for the use of force last week,” Corker said in a statement Monday evening.
The deal that Assad and Russia have reportedly struck came after Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday morning that Assad had one week to turn over the weapons, effectively drawing a new “red line.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Russia would pressure Assad to comply. “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus,” Lavrov said. “We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons.”
Shortly after Lavrov’s comments, the Washington Post reported that Syria “welcomes” the idea. “The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said it welcomed a Russian proposal to avert U.S. military strikes by having Damascus turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors,” the Post reported. “The statement by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Moscow offered the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible to the international standoff that has evolved since apparent chemical weapons attacks on rebel-held suburbs outside Damascus on August 21.”
After that development, President Barack Obama stated a potential deal could avert the use of U.S. military force.