The only way to ensure that chemical weapons in Syria will not be used in the future is by forging an international agreement, says former President Jimmy Carter.
In an op-ed piece for The Washington Post
on Wednesday, the 39th president makes the case that a U.N. resolution against the use of chemical weapons generally, — and approval of Russia's proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under U.N. control — are the most promising ways to end the conflict.
"A resolution in the U.N. General Assembly to condemn any further use of chemical weapons, regardless of the perpetrator, would be approved overwhelmingly, and the United States should support Russia's proposal that Syria's chemical weapons be placed under U.N. control," Carter writes.
"A military strike by the United States is undesirable and will become unnecessary if this alternative proposal is strongly supported by the U.N. Security Council.
"If fully implemented in dozens of sites throughout Syria," he continues "this effort to secure the chemical weapons would amount to a cease fire, with a large U.N. peacekeeping force deployed. In the best of circumstances, this could lead to convening the Geneva peace conference, perhaps including Iran, that could end the conflict."
Carter nevertheless praises President Barack Obama for having the "political courage" to put forward his case for military action despite the risk of rejection by Congress and the public.
"All U.S. presidents have been forced to endure highly publicized rejections of major proposals concerning both domestic and international issues. This is to be expected in any democratic nation, as has occurred recently in Britain and might soon happen in France," the former Democratic president writes.
"It requires a lot of political courage to risk a public rejection, especially when the decision is believed to be right but known to be unpopular with the public, many allies, and top military leaders."
Carter also notes that Obama was wise not to comment on whether he would go ahead with limited military action in the event that both diplomacy fails and Congress rejects his request for a resolution authorizing strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"Despite the claims and counterclaims that have surrounded the chemical attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 and an unknown number of earlier attacks, the issues are now clearly defined," Carter concludes. "The main goals of condemning the use of these outlawed weapons and preventing their further use can still be realized by concerted international action."
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