A bipartisan group of eight senators is furiously working on a new authorization of military force proposal that would be triggered in case of the failure of a Russian-led proposal to have Syria give up control of its chemical weapons stockpile.
The move comes in response to a dramatic shift in course Monday on U.S. military action in Syria, when an apparent off-handed remark from Secretary of State John Kerry became a workable policy solution by the end of the day.
The authorization of military force, in essence, would be written to trigger military force if the new Russian-led plan in Syria fails. On Tuesday, Syria’s Foreign Minister said the country had officially agreed to the plan to place its chemical weapons under international control, after which they would be destroyed.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has agreed to participate in discussions at the United Nations to explore the viability of the solution, according to a White House official. The U.S., U.K., and France could participate in discussions as early as Tuesday.
The Senate group, according to an aide, consists of Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and John McCain (Ariz.). The Democrats in the group include Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
The Senate group’s proposal, according to a Senate aide, would require specific deadlines for both passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution and for inspectors to verify that Syria has turned over its chemical weapons. If Obama cannot verify that these deadlines have been met, the authorization of military force would go into effect.
The provisions of the authorization would be similar to the one passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week — a 60-day limit with a possible 30-day extension, and no “boots on the ground.”
“The conditions will be something along the lines of passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution that puts into place an inspections process, unfettered access to every WMD site, guarantees for secure freedom of movement for all international inspectors, immediate steps by Assad to begin transferring WMD to international custody, and clear consequences and triggers for action if obligations are not met by a specific time,” a Senate aide said in an email.
In a round of television appearances Monday night, Obama said that he would “absolutely” call off strikes on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad gave up control of his country’s chemical weapons. Obama said he had discussed the proposal with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
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