Obama Says Chemical Weapons Turnover Deal Could Avert Military Strikes in Syria

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govMaybe we won't launch a strike against Syria after all? President Obama said he is taking seriously the possibility of backing down from a military conflict with Syria if the country gives up its chemical weapons.

In an interview with CNN that aired tonight, Obama was asked about the positive reception from both Russia and Syria to Secretary of State John Kerry’s apparently off-the-cuff suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al Assad could avoid an attack by “[turning] over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay.” Kerry also said he didn't think that was going to happen. 

But in the interview, Obama appeared open to the idea. A deal like that could possibly avert a strike, the president said, “if it’s real. It’s a positive development with the Russians and the Syrians both make positive gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons.”

Obama's apparent interest in the deal has already resulted in Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deciding to delay a planned vote on whether or not to approve a strike against Syria.

Obama admitted that a weapons-turnover deal, if it happened, wouldn’t “solve the problems of a civil war in Syria.” But he insisted that it would represent progress toward the more limited goal that he’s focused on, which is pushing back against the use of chemical weapons. “These chemical weapons pose a threat to all nations,” he said “and to the United States in particular.”

However, President Obama also said that "the notion that Mr. Assad could significantly threaten the United States is just not the case.” So why, again, is President Obama so determined to launch a strike against the Assad regime?

This post has been updated. 

Update: Obama may be considering a chemical weapons deal to avert strikes. But the use of force is definitely still on the table — even if Congress does not vote to approve strikes. In a separate interview with NBC, Obama wouldn't commit to avoiding an attack if Congress votes against it. "I think it's fair to say that I haven't decided," he said. "I am taking this vote in Congress and what the American people are saying very seriously."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Rich||

    Obama also said that Syrian president Bashar al Assad "doesn't have a credible means to threaten the United States.”

    "Let me be clear. He has *incredible* means."

  • SQRLSY One||

    What Emperor / Ayatollah / I-ya-told-ya-so Obozo means to say is, actually, “If y’all evil Syrian Bahsthads will forward them that those thar evil chemical weapons to those Righteous American DEA agents who Defend The Republic of AmeriKKKa against Evil Pot-Smokers… Even if their state voters have voted for it… Or perhaps if you Evil Bastards will forward at least some chemical weapons to us Righteous USA Wonder-Workers to use against those evil Americans who defend “privacy” (AKA piracy) in the USA against the Obviously Righteous NSA… Then we Power Pigs is the USA might find it in our Government Almighty-Blessed hearts, to forgive you of your transgressions. And then we might not BOMB you bastards to smithereens, lovingly and peacefully of course!!! Ah gots a Nobel Peace Prize to show for my Deep Thoughts, yaknow… So please forward us some chemical weapons right away, we have some heathen pot-smokers that we must smite RIGHT NOW!!!!” … Gratefully Yours, Emperor Obozo

  • ||

    But in the interview, Obama appeared open to the idea.

    Of course he was. This is a way for him to back down while saving face. If he doesn't take it, he is a fool.

  • Hugh Akston||

    When all else fails, crap on the teacher's desk.

  • Aresen||

    I am not sure whether Putin has saved Obama's butt or made him look like a complete putz.

    Possibly both.

  • Boisfeuras||

    And if it happens, the leftist talking point will be that Obama deftly maneuvered Assad into surrendering his weapons of mass destruction at no cost.

  • Jon Lester||

    That occurred to me today, too, but if that's what has to happen to avert disaster, I'll take it.

    I've long doubted that Putin has cared about winning a Nobel peace prize of his own, but he may well have earned one, and he'd definitely deserve it more than one or two certain past laureates...

  • ||

    Is Hit and Run going for a record number of afternoon posts today?

    But in the interview, Obama appeared open to the idea. A deal like that could possibly avert a strike, the president said, “if it’s real. It’s a positive development with the Russians and the Syrians both make positive gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons.”

    Mission Accomplished?

    Obama admitted that a weapons-turnover deal, if it happened, wouldn’t “solve the problems of a civil war in Syria.” But he insisted that it would represent progress toward the more limited goal that he’s focused on, which is pushing back against the use of chemical weapons. “These chemical weapons pose a threat to all nations,” he said “and to the United States in particular.”

    Let history show that President Barack Obama took a stand and enforced a restriction on a rarely used class of weapon that isn't very effective or efficient beyond a psychological impact.

  • ||

    But President Obama's tough stance on chemical weapons is what will garner him his next Peace Prize!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Nah, his next peace prize will be for something he hasn't done yet (and hasn't done as of winning the prize, either).

  • Almanian!||

    Heard this on the radio on the way home. Sounds like Russia finding a way to take more control of the situation.

    It's like the whoooooole world knows what a tool our President is, and how to play him. Well, except for our President and his sycophants.

  • ||

    Dr. Evil could play this president.

  • Almanian!||

    Well, the white half, anyway

    /racist

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Yep. The Russian gangster just pwnd Obama.

    Putin's goal was to keep Assad in power and shore up his alliances in the ME. He just did that. It will be nearly impossible for Obama to strike Syria now. Putin will want to work through the UN and the process will take YEARS, in the meantime, Obama won't be able to act militarily.

    Obama just weakened the "rebels", insured that Assad will stay in power, and offended the Saudis and Israel.

    What a stupid fuck.

  • Pinky||

    True enough. And this will all happen without Assad actually turning over anything but a token stash. So we'll all have that to discuss.

  • ||

    But he insisted that it would represent progress toward the more limited goal that he’s focused on, which is pushing back against the use of chemical weapons.

    Say what?

    How about the only reason that is actually in the US interest: so chemical weapons are kept out of the hands of terrorists.

    It is not even funny how important this overture is. I understand Obama has to keep a tough line so Assad doesn't ask for Qaddafi-like prestige for giving up his WMDs. But, seriously, all efforts should be addressed toward this goal.

  • ||

    Plus, what Episiarch said.

    Obama should be looking for any way to save face. This is a huge gift dropping right in his lap.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Qaddafi-like prestige"

    Sodomization and lynching?

  • ||

    American-endowed prestige just hasn't been the same since 1979.

  • Slammer||

    A whole new can of worms will be opened if Obama takes this way out. No matter how he spins it, it still looks like Putin came out stronger. And like it or not, the rest of the whole will now see Obama as weak.
    And what happens with the inspections clusterfuck that will start if this proposal gets off the ground?
    Obama comes off like a drowning man looking for any lifeline. If the Russian proposal works does Putin get the next Peace Prize?
    Just for the record, I do NOT support U.S. military action in Syria of any type.

  • Pinky||

    I think you are seriously discounting the ability of spin masters to spin this a positive and the unfathamable credulity of the American Left to eat it up.

  • nailzer||

    Bull hockey! You can't tell me Obama ain't jonesin' to press the button on Syria.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -"I think it's fair to say that I haven't decided," he said. "I am taking this vote in Congress and what the American people are saying very seriously."

    This is not simply Orwellian, it is like Orwellian-on-crack. It amounts to 'I am taking the vote in Congress and what the American people say very seriously, but I of course might realize they are both wrong and do the opposite anyway.' If he really thinks this is the right thing to do and he has the power to do it, why would he waste everyone's time on a vote and a delay for debate? If he is going to arrive at what to do independently anyway, why all this farce?

    It is so bizarre that I am vacillating between concluding that his handlers are up to some diabolically clever 'long game' sort of thing here, or he stepped into something through ineptness and now just wants to get out of it so he get back to playing more golf.

  • Almanian!||

    When in doubt, Occam's Razor.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's always safe to assume that Obama and his leash-holders are playing 11-dimensional chess with national and world affairs, because they buy into Sullivan's line of bullshit about leading from behind.

    But it's equally safe to assume that they don't have the first clue about the nation or the world at large, so their efforts at control typically play out as sitcom-level panic and desperation.

  • ||

    I certainly thought Obama would grab the lifeline of Congressional approval and then softpedal the request. But he's burning a lot of political capital -- a lot more than is warranted.

    But, really, he's just looking for the chance of political cover here. If he acted without officially consulting Congress and it went bad, the memory would be "Obama went against Congress and the public's will." That's now the worst case. If he really plans to act, it can only get better.

    And like all politicians, the world he sees is not black and white, but shaded with grays. If this proposal really induces a rebellion in his ranks, he will change his mind: the cost-benefit analysis would demand it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Impeach the fucker. In my opinion, he's fatally crossing the line even suggesting he can defy Congress. Radical? Well, by today's pathetic standards, maybe.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "and what the American people are saying very seriously"

    How goddamn charitable of you

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Is Putin applying pressure to the Assad regime to offer up the chemical weapons to appease Obama? It just seems to me that, as horrible a human being as Putin is, he's orders of magnitude more savvy than our guy with the ball.

  • ant1sthenes||

    "And if you ask somebody, if you ask Michelle do we want to be involved in another war, the answer is no."

    But she has the soft heart of a woman! So long as I am your King, making me look like an idiot shall never go unpunished. Ser Brennan, launch the cruise missiles at arbitrary sites in Syria!

  • plusafdotcom||

    Oh, wait... will the much-anticipated Tuesday-night reveal also include a promise by Syria to never buy OR accept the "gift" of any MORE weapons like poison gas?

    Ah, love the missing ingredients.

    Tune in for the NEXT stupid chapter... coming soon to a MSM near you.

  • Pinky||

    I think I get it, the symbolism isn't about punishing Assad, its about maintaining the impunity of the presidency to act at will.

  • ||

    powerful groups/countries who want to steal chem stockpiles from weaker countries to keep for themself to threaten to use and potentially use, is only about power not saftey.
    obama isnt agianst useing chemical weapons, he encourages us gov to continue and increase posioning 1000's+ of innocent americans for critizeing gov/being political oppoent/or easy target.
    obama is hypocritical and thinks its ok for him and his minions to do whatever obama wants them to do, includeing murdering and tortureing masses of innocents for refuseing to disarm, for whistleblowing, or for being a suspect w/o evidence of commiting a crime, tho not ok for anyone to have the same capabilities, or defend themself agianst obama's offensive murderous goons, or disobey control freak obama.
    dont send us military to forign countries. us gov gives $billions and military weapons to forign govs while millions of people starve to death as a result of gov useing those weapons to herd and trap people, lets gov members get away w and classify murder and tortures/imprisons whisteblowers/gov critisizers/political oppoents/ideaological dissadents, guards forign poppys, while ignores forigners being tortured/murdered, and is the largest illict drug dealer in the us.

  • ||

    us's last military intervention didnt result in a more peacful country.
    its not illegal to have chemical weapons or wmds, us admits it has the most. it doesnt matter the means, it matters the ends when it comes to abuse. killing/injureing someone w nerve gas vrs shooting/bombing them are both about equally painful and severe.
    its illegal to arrest, attack, or steal man made property from, entire groups, militarys, governments, or entire non-gov, in order to punish a few members of those groups.
    powerful nuclear countries who have chem weapons(all countries have chem weapons)team up to try to de-wmd, or de-chem weapon weak countries are trying to overpower them, its not about de-chem weaponing the world if they wanted to de-chem weapon the world they would start with de-chem weaponing themself then they would try to persude powerful coutnries to de-chem weapon.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement