President Barack Obama addressed the nation last night, renewing calls that something must be done to stop the regime of Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons again against the Syrian people.
"When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory," President Obama said during his prime time address. "But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people—to those children—is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security."
President Obama said that he has asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while the U.S. government pursues a diplomatic path.
But it was a comment by Secretary of State John Kerry, a seemingly off-the-cuff remark, that radically changed the possibilities for an American intervention in Syria.
"He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons in the next week - turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting before that, but he isn't about to do it," said Secretary Kerry on Monday of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Though the State Department quickly described Kerry's remark as a "rhetorical argument," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov pounced on the idea. By the mid-afternoon on Monday, even as National Security Adviser Susan Rice argued for an American strike in Syria at the New America Foundation, a diplomatic solution seemed possible.
Leslie Gelb, president emeritus and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, explores the implications of Secretary Kerry's "accidental diplomacy," and analyzes President Obama's prime time speech.