Syria’s chemical weapons are on their way out to sea, there to be destroyed.
Near the climax of his State of the Union Address on January 28th, president Obama said, “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” (Applause.)
Getting rid of Syria’s poison gas weapons peacefully is a huge accomplishment; Syria had one of the largest stores of poison gas weapons in the world, and those in control of these weapons had demonstrated the will to use them even on their own people. Not to mention that Syria borders Israel as well as Lebanon and could have used that poison gas in devastating ways. Now it is all being eliminated; the world is much safer.
Near the end of August, the United States was intending to bomb Syria because of its use of poison gas against its own rebels, thereby crossing president Obama’s announced “red line.” Congress was resistant.
So on September 2, 2013, I posted a blog entry on the Just Peacemaking website that argued as follows:
We all agree that after US bombing, Syria would still possess this huge supply of illegal, people-killing poison gas. Even if the regime itself would never use it again, some of it could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Here is a constructive alternative: remind Syria that the U.S. has destroyed most of its own supplies of poison gas weapons. The U.S. has experts experienced in how to destroy these weapons safely. Ask Syria to let U.S. experts guide the destruction of Syria’s dangerous supply of poison gas weapons. If they do so, then there will be no retaliatory strike.
I named three realistic Syrian interests that could persuade them to accept the offer:
- Otherwise, Syria will experience a hurtful punitive US bombing attack.
- Otherwise, Syria needs to worry that rebels could gain possession of some of the poison gas and use it against the regime.
- Otherwise, Syria is an international criminal, to be opposed by most all other nations.
This blog entry traveled more rapidly and was read by more people, nationally and internationally, than any I have written to date. Which makes me wonder, was my proposal noticed by someone in the State Department? Likely. That person needs to let people know so that Secretary Kerry gets accurate credit. Most Americans think the initiative was a Russian proposal, but Secretary Kerry’s initiative indeed came first, and Mr. Lavrov affirmed it the following day. Only then does president Obama’s celebration in his State of the Union make sense, crediting American diplomacy.
On the weekend of Sept. 8th, Secretary of State John F. Kerry. traveling in Britain, said that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, could avoid bombing strikes by agreeing to give up his chemical weapons: “He could turn over every bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.”
But Mr. Kerry added a realistic conclusion: “But he isn’t about to do it, obviously.”
I had concluded my blog entry with a similar realistic conclusion:
Of course the likely outcome probably would be that the regime would decline the offer. Then we would be back to where we are now. The punitive strike would proceed. Nothing would be lost by having made the offer. Something would be gained: the world would see that the U.S. is seeking to produce a constructive outcome.
But on Monday, Sept. 9th, Mr. Lavrov of Russia affirmed Secretary Kerry’s proposal. Officials in Syria embraced the idea, as did Britain, France, the United Nations and even some Republican lawmakers in Washington.
The weapons are now on their way out to sea, there to be destroyed.