Possible Russian deal on Syria divides TX lawmakers


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on September 11, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 11 at 5:29 PM

AUSTIN -- Speaking to the American public Tuesday evening, Pres. Barack Obama announced his intent put U.S. military action against the Syrian government temporarily on hold while a tentative diplomatic solution moves forward.

"It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments," said the president, while also laying out the case for a military strike in the event that diplomacy fails.

The process will begin when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian officials Thursday in Geneva, where new details are expected fleshing out a deal brokered by Moscow to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. Meanwhile, members of the Texas congressional delegation are offering mixed reviews of the president's address and overall strategy for dealing with the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad.

"I think the president is right to pursue international, non-military approaches to Syria and right to postpone this vote," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), referring to a congressional vote which would authorize a strike. "This will be a very challenging approach, but it's better than a go-it-alone military strike that leaves all the chemical weapons in Assad's hands, which is what the proposal did, and which risks very dangerous long-term involvement by the United States in another Middle East war."

The logistics of removing an estimated thousand tons of chemical weapons from a war zone will undoubtedly prove difficult.

"It will take weeks to get inspectors there, to conduct an initial inventory," Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares fund told CNN. "To secure the site will probably take several months. Destroying the weapons, that will take years."

Foreign policy expert, historian and University of Texas Professor Jeremi Suri says another challenge will be securing international oversight to keep Russia and Syria honest.

"This is where Barack Obama's efforts to improve relations with allies and the U.N. will be important, but it also Shows the limitations of these organizations," Suri told KVUE. "It's not clear the United Nations will be able to actually effectively monitor an agreement that will need monitoring, and that's a real thing to watch. Can we create a monitoring process at the U.N. that would actually work for this?"

Speaking Wednesday morning on the Senate floor, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) warned not to place too much faith in al-Assad's allies.

"I would remind the president and our colleagues that Russia itself is not in full compliance with the chemical weapons convention, nor is it even in compliance with nuclear arms control obligations that are subject to an international treaty. In short, we have very little reason to believe that Moscow is a reliable diplomatic partner," said Cornyn.

"The Russians are part of the problem in Syria," he emphasized. "They are not credibly part of the solution."

In a speech on American foreign policy to the Heritage Foundation Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued the U.S. should force a vote by the U.N. security council condemning the Syrian governing, a move he acknowledged would almost assuredly draw the veto of both Russia and China.

"In my view we should force them to do so on the world stage to publicly embrace this murderous tyrant," said Cruz. "We should respond directly with respect to Russia by immediately reinstating the anti-ballistic missile stations in Eastern Europe that at the beginning of the Obama administration they canceled in an effort to appease Russia. And with respect to China, we should immediately approve the sale of F-16s to Taiwan that the administration canceled in order to appease China."

Both Cruz and Cornyn said they remain opposed to authorizing a military strike. While each applauded the president for seeking input from Congress and for presenting his case to American people, both said the president failed in his effort to put forth a compelling rationale or clear plan for an attack. Whether diplomacy will win out remains to be seen.