There was no reason to expect President Barack Obama’s decision about the Syrian conflict to find unanimous approval, especially from his GOP critics. On Sunday, he responded to those dissenters and naysayers, dismissing the notion that he mishandled the situation in Syria.
“Folks here in Washington like to grade on style,” Obama said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. … We know that because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq War until it ended up blowing [up] in our face.”
Rather than applauding the statesmanship of Secretary of State John Kerry, who, together with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, appears to have hammered out a framework for bringing the Assad regime’s chemical weapons under international control, detractors such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, continue to lambast the president for even suggesting a military threat.
Without that threat, it is doubtful if the peace process would have even gotten this far, though much hangs in the balance if Syria rejects the plan and fails to honor it over the long term.
“I’m less concerned about style points,” Obama said. “I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right.” Those last words may have been tailored specifically to the GOP members in Congress and their need to get the fiscal negotiations right, particularly as it pertains to the federal debt limit. Even as the differences continue over the crisis in Syria, Obama had to set that aside to respond to the deadly attack at the Navy Yard in D.C., in which 13 people were killed, including the gunman.
Complicating the diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva between Kerry and Lavrov is the extent to which the U.N. Security Council will back the deal and the difficulties of putting a team of investigators on the ground to find the undisclosed locations of chemical weapons and figuring out how to remove them in the midst of a civil war.
The removal of the weapons of mass destruction, some activists charge, does not end the conventional warfare that has taken more than 100,000 lives, with a countless number wounded. And there remains the sarin gas attack committed by the Assad regime on Aug. 21 that allegedly took more than 1,400 lives—including 400 children—without any punishment for the perpetrators.
The U.S. and Russia have set a date of Sept. 21 to submit a comprehensive list of the chemical agents, their locations and information on the matter of production, research and development.
Submission of this information will provide yet another glimmer of hope toward curtailing further turmoil in the Middle East. And the U.S. knows that Iran is watching every step of these negotiations.