Cantwell: Give time for chemical weapons deal

By:  Seattle PI – Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle PI

The Obama administration should “redouble efforts” to negotiate a deal for destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, and a dysfunctional Washington, D.C., should “give the administration time” to work with Russia, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said after President Obama’s Tuesday speech to the country.

 “I appreciate the President’s decision today to ask to delay a vote on military force,” Cantwell said.

 Just before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, then-freshman Senator Cantwell voted in favor of a use-of-force resolution.

 The President announced Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry is headed for Geneva to meet with his Russian counterpart, to iron out details of this week’s unexpected peace initiative out of Moscow.  Russia has been the chief diplomatic ally and arms supplier to the Assad regime in Syria.

 “The United States should redouble efforts for a diplomatic and political solution in Syria, getting United Nations Security Council action supported by Russia that would allow Syria’s chemical weapons to be collected and destroyed,” Cantwell said after Obama spoke.

 The senator added that Obama should encourage ex-United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to resume his role as the UN’s special peace envoy to Syria.

 The Syrian civil war has dragged on for more than two years.  At least 100,000 people have been killed, and more than 2 million have fled the war-torn country for relief camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

 The prospect of U.S. military action was triggered on August 21, when Syrian government forces apparently used chemical weapons on civilians.

 “I would strongly prefer a diplomatic and political solution to both Syria’s possession and use of chemical weapons and to end the Syrian civil war,” Cantwell said.

 “We now need to give the administration time to see if diplomacy, and the Russian proposal, can work.  I will be watching Secretary Kerry’s upcoming meeting with Russian’s foreign minister very closely.”

Earlier this week, a CNN/Opinion Research poll found 59 percent of Americans opposed to an air strike on Syria.  A quick poll, after the Tuesday night speech, showed a 61-37 percent margin in support of President Obama’s position to delay an air attack and seek an agreement to bring Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control, and destroy it.