Has a Syria Attack Been Averted? The Latest on the Crisis

The push towards U.S. military intervention in Syria has been halted for now.

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Update: The AP reports that President Bashar Assad has pledged to put Syria's chemical weapons arsenal to international scrutiny. 

The drift towards an U.S. military attack on Syria has been halted--at least for now. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal yesterday to have Syria hand over its chemical weapons to the international community has jumpstarted a ferocious round of diplomacy aimed at halting military intervention and getting rid of Syria’s potent chemical weapons stock. While Kerry’s remark appeared to be a gaffe, the White House is saying that the diplomatic deal had been discussed at a recent G20 meeting. Russia and Syria now say they want to go ahead with getting rid of chemical weapons, and China is backing them up.

Last night, President Barack Obama gave a further push towards diplomacy when he told CNN that the deal to avert a strike on Syria is “possible” if it was “real.” Obama plans to go ahead with a speech to the nation tonight laying out the case for why military action on Syria is needed. But the diplomatic opening complicates his case, and for now the Senate has delayed the vote on authorizing military force. It all adds up to a decisive shift away from what looked like an impending attack on the Syrian regime.

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The proposal “knocks the ground out from under Obama’s plans for a military strike,” said Russian politician Alexei Pushkov in a message on Twitter.

France is now testing the waters to see if Russia and Syria are serious about the diplomatic proposal. They have authored a Security Council resolution that would force Syria to destroy their chemical weapons under the eyes of international inspectors and sign the international convention banning chemical weapons, which Syria is not a party to.

The proposal would have to pass through a Security Council where Russia holds veto power--setting up a test as to whether Russia is serious about the proposal or whether it’s a stalling tactic. The Security Council proposal is being made under what is known as Chapter 7, which if passed would pave the way for a military attack if Syria did not abide by the resolution. Additionally, the French resolution pins the blame for the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian regime--an assertion that has been bolstered by a Human Rights Watch report that also says the regime carried out the attacks. Those parts of the resolution could make it harder for Russia to swallow.

A wrench has been thrown in the plans to attack Syria, and it could make everyone happy: Obama, who was forced by his own words to contemplate getting more involved in a brutal civil war; Congress, who looked like they were going to vote down the proposal and deal a blow to Obama; Russia and Syria, who can beat their chests at averting a U.S. attack; and others who wanted a diplomatic solution.

For Saudi Arabia and the rebels they back in Syria, the plan is bad news. They were pushing for a U.S. strike, hoping it would shift the balance of the civil war. The Syrian rebels have come out in opposition to the Russian proposal.

“The regime has committed so many crimes against humanity and was allowed to get away with it. A delay would embolden the regime more,” the spokesman for the Syria National Coalition told The Daily Beast.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.