- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Even as Capitol Hill waited to see how the Russian chemical weapons offer played out, lawmakers on both sides of the question of Syria strikes claimed credit for helping force the Assad regime’s hand.

President Obama, in a round of interviews Monday night, said it was his threat of military attack in support of his chemical weapons “red line” that made President Bashar Assad realize he had no choice but to relinquish weapons.

Meanwhile in Congress, Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the key moment was that panel’s 10-7 vote last week to authorize Mr. Obama to strike.

“While at this point I have healthy skepticism that this offer will change the situation and it will be several days before we can fully determine its credibility, I do know that it never would have been floated if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had not approved the authorization for the use of force last week,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Mr. Corker’s skepticism was shared by many in Congress, who said Russia’s plan to have Syria turn over chemical weapons to an international body could be a breakthrough, but could also be a stalling tactic.

Still, it was enough of a real possibility that the Senate, which had been rushing to try to pass a resolution authorizing Mr. Obama to strike at the regime’s chemical weapons facilities, hit the pause button and delayed forcing a filibuster vote.

Many lawmakers who were leaning against supporting U.S. strikes eagerly embraced the prospect of an international agreement to solve the chemical weapons situation, calling it a better “way forward” than an American-led attack.

Syria’s offer makes any bombing campaign aimed at neutralizing its chemical stockpile unnecessary,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat.

He said the offer showed that international diplomacy had not been exhausted and the push for strikes was premature.

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