Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that if President Bashar al-Assad wants to avert an attack on Syria, he should hand over all of his chemical weapons within one week.... and then the Russian Foreign Minister endorses Kerry's position ...
Asked if there were steps the Syrian president could take to avert an American-led attack, Mr. Kerry said, “Sure, he could turn over every single 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.”
“We don’t know whether Syria will agree with this, but if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus,” Mr. Lavrov said at the Foreign Ministry. “And we call on the Syrian leadership to not only agree to setting the chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also to their subsequent destruction.”... and a couple of hours later, Syria's Foreign Minister says Syria would agree to hand over its chemical weapons:
Presumably, the big question here will be whether the administration believes Syria and Russia are simply giving lip service to Kerry's ultimatum, or if they are actually serious about complying with it. Before Syria issued its reaction, an anonymous "senior administration official" told NBC's Peter Alexander that the Russian offer wasn't enough to get the administration to change course:
The Russians are using this as yet another delay tactic to protect the Assad regime and prevent them from being held accountable for gassing its own people [...] We're making our own decisions about a military response on our own timeline, period.But even though that statement says the U.S. will continue forward on its own timeline, if Russia were actually able to get Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the administration would proceed with an attack. Of course, that's the best case scenario. The flip-side is this: What happens if Russia and Syria say they are in the process of handing over weapons, but don't take action quickly enough to satisfy the administration? Would the U.S. attack Syria at the same time that Russia was claiming to disarm it of chemical weapons?
9:52 AM PT: If you're wondering whether Syria has elaborated on what exactly it is saying that it is agreeing to do, you're not alone. And according to the New York Times, Syria's foreign minister did not offer any details.
Mr. Moallem, however, would not give any further details in his brief statement and did not take any questions.
"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.