If implemented the Russian proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to international monitors for destruction offers the possibility a win-win solution. Syria is pressured into giving up its chemical weapons, and the international norm against the use of these weapons is strengthened. The Obama administration avoids the prospects of political defeat at home and the risks of renewed military intervention in the Middle East.
France is introducing a resolution at the UN Security Council to implement the Russian proposal and mobilize international action against the chemical attacks. The French resolution demands that Syria disclose its chemical stockpiles and place them under international control. It also condemns the August 21 massacre and calls for International Criminal Court action against those responsible.
The implications of the latest developments are many:
- Threat-based diplomacy can be effective. There is no doubt that Obama’s threat of military attack, and the worldwide effort to prevent that action, played a key role in catalyzing Russia’s involvement and pressuring Syria to consider the deal.
- U.S. domestic political opposition to military strikes limited the administration’s options, forced a time-consuming debate that allowed time for diplomatic maneuvering, and increased the President’s receptivity to non-military solutions.
- The United States can benefit from working with Russia in seeking diplomatic solutions to difficult international security challenges.
- If the Syrian chemical weapons plan is implemented it could open the door for diplomacy to end the war, with the U.S. and Russia renewing their cooperation in pushing for a ceasefire and a negotiated solution.
- The Syria deal could provide an opening for diplomatic cooperation with Iran. Tehran has announced its support for the Russian proposal and could be asked to participate in assuring its implementation. This could pave the way for negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program.