During a London press briefing Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry apparently created a brand new red line for Syria without first clearing it with President Obama or his own State Department. Unfortunately, Kerry’s words have already spun out of diplomatic control with Russia and the United Kingdom taking Kerry at his word before State could take it back.
Within hours of claiming that Syria could avoid American air strikes if Assad turns “over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community within the next week,” the State Department was forced to walk it back:
“Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used,” a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“His (Kerry’s) point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.”
In his statement Kerry added that Assad “isn’t about to do it,” but in a move that will almost certainly muddy the diplomatic waters further, Russia has already taken advantage of Kerry’s apparent off-the-cuff remark by calling on their friends in the Assad regime to call the Secretary of State’s bluff:
Russia has urged Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Monday.
“We have passed our offer to (Syrian Foreign Minister Walid) Al-Muallem and hope to receive [a] fast and positive answer,” Sergey Lavrov said, according to RT.com, the Russian news agency, and the Associated Press.
Lavrov said Monday that if such a move would help avert a possible U.S. strike on Syria, Russia will start work “immediately” to persuade Syria to give up the control of its chemical arsenals.
ITV is reporting that British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined Russia in calling for Syria to do the same.
After a week of boondoggles in making the case for war, the Obama administration was supposed to get its act together this week.
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