The Syrian crisis has taken another curious turn. Yesterday, before President Obama made his case to the public for some sort of military strike against the regime of Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that his nation would push the Syrian government to put its chemical weapons cache under international control. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem claimed his nation agrees with the idea. “Syria welcomes the Russian proposal out of concern for the lives of the Syrian people, the security of our country and because it believes in the wisdom of the Russian leadership that seeks to avert American aggression against our people,” he said.
The surprise development came within hours of an ambiguous ultimatum issued by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Assad had one week to turn over all of his chemical weapons or face a military attack. Kerry then said it was unlikely Assad would do so. Sensing a potential problem, the State Department quickly characterized Kerry’s comments as a “rhetorical argument,” not an actual offer. What Kerry really meant, according to Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, “was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons.”