Are Obama / Kerry preparing a face-saving exit?


Looks like my speculations  this morning may not be so far off the mark:

Washington Post: 

Syria ‘welcomes’ Russia proposal on chemical arms


It might just be wishful thinking on my part or it could be that Obama and Kerry are preparing a face-saving path to abandoning their strike on Syria rather than suffer a humiliating rejection in the the US House of Representatives.

For the first time that I have noticed, Kerry is now “offering” Assad a way to avoid a strike – by giving up all his chemical weapons. I could be mistaken but I perceive the beginnings of a change in Kerry’s strident tone. The rhetoric for a strike from Kerry and Obama is not letting up – but it’s the first time that a possibility of a strike not happening has been mentioned. Of course if Congress and the Senate back Obama then there will be no need to back down and the exit path will become unnecessary. I also noted some US voices suggesting that Obama could postpone any vote in Congress until after some – so far – undefined moves in the UN as being advocated by the EU and other countries (including Russia). Putin for his part has also indicated that if the UN were shown the evidence and concurred then he would also support some – as yet unspecified – UN action against Syria.

Of course Assad would not/could not just give up his chemical weapons and certainly not to the US. But it is not unthinkable that he may be willing to put them under the control of his Russian allies. So if a suitable “formula” is evolved where the Russians perhaps “take charge” of Assad’s chemical weapons or in some other way secure their “safe-keeping” then Kerry and Obama could claim that their objective of preventing any further such attacks has been achieved. And if in addition the Russians are acting – or seen to be acting – on behalf of the UN in arranging such a scenario it would not only give Assad a way of saving face but also give the US the possibility to claim that Assad has conceded the supremacy of the UN. More importantly if such a scenario were being arranged it would give Obama and Kerry a “reason” for waiting with the vote in the House and for waiting with the strike.

If , in spite of the “red line having been crossed”, a US strike can be avoided by Assad ceding control of his chemical weapons then it seems to me to be something within the realm of negotiation. Especially when the benefits to the US of a very limited strike are not very evident. The benefits of such a strike  may mainly accrue to Al Qaida.

The key remains the US Congress. All “face saving” only becomes necessary and only comes into play if Obama expects to lose a vote in the House even after (and if) he has won a vote in the Senate. The next few days will tell if Obama’s rhetoric is holding sway in the House or whether he will need to use his exit strategy.

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One Response to “Are Obama / Kerry preparing a face-saving exit?”

  1. Obama hits pause button and Senate delays Syria vote | The k2p blog Says:

    […] I speculated yesterday, putting Syrian chemical weapons under International control has taken off as a potential […]

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