New “Russian Plan” on Syria

Weeks after President Obama originally asked for an authorization of force against Syria, the President asked Congress last Tuesday to delay their vote so as to allow the new ‘Russian plan’ time to develop as a possible alternative to a military strike.

The Russian plan involves the use of special international observers to oversee the identification and removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Clearly a departure from more violent military alternatives, the plan arose from the longtime opposition of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, to any form of unilateral strike by the United States, a position that was also taken by the Chinese government.

This decision comes amidst a firestorm of doubts from members of Congress about the worth of taking risks in Syria against the opposition of Russia and China. Some, such as Senator Corker, had pronounced doubts about the applicability of a military strike to ultimate US goals in the region.

“I want to see us continue to carry out the strategy that has been stated,” said Corker in a statement to Secretary of State John Kerry before a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I’d like to have you today…address how this use of military force supports that strategy.”

Other opponents considered the resolution for military force premature amongst a variety of diplomatic resolutions.

“I cannot support the resolution that passed the Foreign Relations Committee to use force in Syria,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MD). “It is too broad, the effects of a strike are too unpredictable, and I…believe we must give diplomatic measures…a chance to work.”

Still others, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, had highlighted doubts about the applicability of a military strike to future American interests.

“Victory by either side will not necessarily bring into power people friendly to the United States,” said Paul in an August press release, hinting towards possible terrorist involvement with the rebels in Syria.

The President seems to have admitted to some of these doubts in his address to the nation about Syria. Noting that it was “too early to tell” whether the Russian plan would be successful, the President nonetheless stated his Administration had always “preferred” peaceful alternatives. Still, the President has maintained that military options will be kept available on the Assad regime while the Russian plan is considered.

“America is not the world’s policeman.” President Obama said, responding to criticism. “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death…I believe we should act.”

However, serious doubts have been raised about the health of this new option. Moving from a time when he doubted the validity of the use of Sarin by Syrian forces to his current diplomatic position, Putin’s plan may just rely upon the recently released results of an investigative report of the United Nations concerning the events in Syria.

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, had consistently affirmed the need of nations to wait for the release of the UN’s report, given any action taken would be taken based upon the contexts of international law that UN authorities enforce.

“The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defence in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, or when the Security Council approves such action,” said Ban , firmly against notions of unilateral actions. “[The UN inspectors are] uniquely placed to independently establish the facts in an objective and impartial manner.”

As the extent of the UN report, which stated the use of chemical weapons in the attack was “indisputable”, but did not mention the guilty party, is taken into account, however, rapid changes are likely as new policy is created to adapt to ever-changing conditions.

“The burdens of leadership are often heavy,” President Obama said towards the end of his address, “But the world is a better place because we have borne them.”

Only time will tell whether the outcomes of any action by the United States will be positive.