“Sure. [Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” he said. “Turn it over, all of it, without delay. And allow the full and total accounting for that, but he isn't about to do it.”
The press screamed GAFFE...
White House officials spent several hours downplaying Kerry's comment, calling it a "hypothetical," a "rhetorical" comment — an anonymous American official even told CNN it was a "major goof." And it sure looked like a comment tossed off without much thought — in the GIF at right, you can see Kerry throw up his hands at the idea. "But he isn't about to do it," Kerry said of Assad handing over all his chemical weapons, "and it can't be done, obviously."
...but then something very remarkable happened. The Russians LOVED it, and more importantly, so did the Assad regime.
But Russia treated it like a serious proposal. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said his country would work "immediately" to convince Syria to hand over his large chemical weapons arsenal. Then Syria foreign minister Walid al Moualem said he "welcomes Russia's proposal." Suddenly the goof was serious. Then deputy national security adviser Tony Blinkin said "We're going to take a hard look at this," in a press conference with reporters. "We'll talk to the Russians about it."
Hillary Clinton was on hand to seize the upper hand...
Then Clinton played it off in a speech that was originally supposed to be about wildlife trafficking. "Now, if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step," Clinton said. "But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely, or be held to account." That's not a rejection of Kerry's comment as a goof — that's a demand that Russia take it extremely seriously! Syria would have never been open to this proposal if it weren't for the threat of military strikes, Clinton said.
And now, all of a sudden, there might be a way out of this mess, without President Obama actually having to fire a single missile. And considering the now overwhelming opposition to Syrian strikes, it's something the White House is going to actively pursue, I should think.