In the wake of a Russian proposal for the identification, removal and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, President Barack Obama said on 11 September that although “it is too early to tell whether this offer will succeed,” the initiative “has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force.” “I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path,” he added.

The idea was first discussed by Mr Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin privately on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg and subsequently by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. It gained traction when it was publicly accepted by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allim at a joint press conference with Mr Lavrov in Moscow on 9 September. On the face of it, the Russian initiative appears to offer a face-saving way out of an awkward predicament for all sides. President Obama does not want to involve his country in another unpopular war in the Middle East; he can argue – and has already done so – that the threat of force has made the Syrian regime admit that it possesses chemical weapons and that it is ready to get rid of them. President Putin has pulled off a diplomatic coup by preempting an American attack and ensuring that Moscow’s ally, President Bashar al-Asad, remains in power. The Syrian regime will say, as it did after losing the Golan Heights in 1967, that it is victorious because it survives. (CONTINUED - 803 WORDS)