John Kerry Switzerland

John Kerry Arrives in Geneva

Yesterday Harry Reid announced that the Senate was formally dropping consideration for a resolution authorizing US military force in Syria. (Yay team!)

Shortly thereafter Ben Cardin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said a vote could happen in the Senate “as early as next week” on a backdoor AUMF being crafted by John McCain’s “Gang of  8.”  It would give the President the authorization to take military action if certain conditions are not met. (Don’t sleep yet.)

Since members of Congress are still declaring their support/opposition to the use of military force in Congress, we’re going to keep tracking them.

In the mean time, it all rests on the shoulders of John Kerry right now (as Yves says, not a comforting thought).  Kerry is meeting in Zurich today with his Russian counterparts, and has brought in Henry Kissinger to consult (who has evidently kept up his friendship with Putin).

Speaking of Putin, he has an op-ed in the New York Times.  As Dan Wright notes, it’s surprisingly reasonable-sounding, but it’s still hard to take a lecture on human rights from a guy whose country is persecuting LGBT people with such zeal these days.

I’ll be updating this page with news as we hear it throughout the day. As always, if you see anything you think we should be aware of, leave it in the comments.

Firedoglake Senate Syria Whip Count Page

Dem/In Republicans Total
Firm Nay 8 24 33
Firm Yea 15 7 22
Leaning Nay 4 3 7
Leaning Yea 4 1 5
Undecided 23 10 33
TOTAL 100

Firedoglake House Syria Whip Count Page

Democrats Republicans Total
Firm Nay 26 105 131
Firm Yea 20    8  28
Leaning Nay 44   79 123
Leaning Yea 25     6   31
Undecided 85   35 120
TOTAL 200 233 433

 Update 11:54 AM: UN weapons inspector David Kay tells CNN that getting rid of chemical weapons will actually require “boots on the ground.”  He says that many of these precursor chemicals are up to 30 years old and transporting them could be dangerous, so he recommends disposing of them near their current location (and I confess I have no idea what that means).

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is a firm no:  Collins says he will vote “no on authorizing U.S. military action in Syria if and when the vote comes to the House.”

CIA has been delivering “light machine guns and other small arms to Syrian rebels for the past few weeks,” per the AP.  With over 1000 factions comprising the “rebels,” I have serious doubts about the much-vaunted “vetting” that is supposedly taking place to keep from putting weapons in the hands of Al Quaeda.

12:21:  ABC reports that a rash of House Republicans went from “lean nay” to “firm nay” following Kerry’s comments on Monday:  “Tonight, Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Charles Boustany, Scott DesJarlais, Tom Graves, Brett Guthrie, Gregg Harper, Sam Johnson, Frank LoBiondo, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Kenny Marchant, Alan Nunnelee and Steve Womack all closed the door on supporting authorization for military force.”

12:32:  CNN reports that a letter from Assad has been written that says Syria wants to join the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.  Starts a 180 day timeline.  “Assad also said that the process is ‘two-sided’ and suggested it will only work if the U.S. halts its threats of military action against Syria.” (AP)

Meanwhile the French are putting forward a UN resolution saying that Syria has to declare all its chemical weapons within 15 days.

Looks like the “arming the rebels” thing is not going down well.  “President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday Washington must stop arming rebels and stop threatening military force if it wanted a plan for Syria to hand over chemical weapons to work” says Agence France-Presse.

12:45: UN weapons inspector David Kay on CNN says there’s a worse kicker in Assad’s statement, in that he thinks the process they will adhere to is the CWC.  But the CWC process is not appropriate for a country that has just used chemical weapons.  It calls for a country to identify its chemical weapons, then the country is left to disposes of them.

Interesting article by Micah Zenko on whether the White House’s claim that “coercive diplomacy” led to Assad agreeing to turn over his chemical weapons, and whether other tactics would have been more successful:

As two major studies of how the U.S. threatens force demonstrated, coercive diplomacy only works roughly 30 percent of the time. They also show that coercion (making an adversary change their behavior) is much more difficult to achieve—especially over extended periods of time—than deterrence (attempting to maintain the status quo by discouraging an adversary from initiating a specific action).

It’s certainly a good subject for debate — whether concerted diplomatic action over the past two years would’ve brought about the same response, earlier and easier, without the need for all the dick-swinging brinksmanship.

1:50: John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov speaking now. Aside from everything else, if it the administration’s goal was regime change (and per the President, it was) they certainly wiffed this. This whole process will hopefully get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons, but it will also cement Assad’s power.

1:55:  William Cohen on CNN saying the President doesn’t have a “credible threat of force” in order to enforce an agreement with Assad, due to the opposition on Capitol Hill.

I ‘m not sure that’s true.  If Assad balks on the agreements he’s signed he will have broken an international agreement.  And at that point the board changes dramatically, particularly with regard to the UN.

Photo by US Mission Geneva under Creative Commons license