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Capitol Hill is skeptical, yet hopeful, as diplomatic solution to Syria emerges

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sen. John McCain said Tuesday "there's ample reason to be skeptical" about an emerging plan to compel Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control to avert a U.S. military strike.

The Arizona Republican said that if Syrian President Bashar Assad is serious about the Russian-led proposal, his regime should accept international monitors into his country "right away."

Mr. McCain told CNN he stills supports arming vetted portions of the rebels who are fighting the Assad government, but Democratic senators on Capitol Hill are grasping onto diplomatic solutions that have surfaced in the past 24 hours as President Obama presses his case to punish Mr. Assad for an Aug. 21 chemical attack on civilians near Damascus.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday Mr. Assad could avoid a military strike by surrendering his chemical weapons to global supervision.

Russia and top officials from Syria said they were taking Mr. Kerry at his word and would act on the proposal, but Washington is skeptical about their sincerity and the feasibility of such a plan.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are pushing a plan that would force Mr. Assad to sign an international convention banning chemical weapons and start relinquishing his weapons within 45 days.

"We've thrown out our ideas and we'll see where they go ... We're getting international buy-in now," Mr. Manchin told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Mr. Obama is scheduled to address the American public Tuesday evening, although it is unclear if swiftly developing proposals from Russia and Capitol Hill will significantly change his call for a military strike to punish Mr. Assad.

"They've not explained the case to the Americans people and I hope the president does that tonight," Mr. McCain said of the administration.

"We have to lead," he said, "because nobody else does, and we're not."

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