In an off-the-cuff, dismissive remark Monday, U.S. Sec. of State Kerry suggested an idea that many in the international community are beginning to take serious – if Syria gives up all of its chemical weapons, the United States will not attack.
"Sure, [Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week – turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting. But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done," Kerry said at a press conference.
Watching the video posted to The Independent, it is clear that Kerry was not suggesting it as a serious proposal. He followed up the remarks with details of how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not been trustworthy or credible in the past.
Russia, however, did take the remarks seriously. Russian leaders are now trying to broker a deal in which Syria would relinquish all of its chemical weapons in exchange for the United States backing off its threats of retaliation.
After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria was open to the proposal.
"Syria welcomes the Russian proposal out of concern for the lives of the Syrian people, the security of our country and because it believes in the wisdom of the Russian leadership that seeks to avert American aggression against our people," he told reporters.
Moallem's remarks would be the first time that a Syrian official implicitly acknowledged that the country possesses chemical weapons.
The White House is now saying it will take Kerry's non-serious Syria suggestion seriously.
By Monday afternoon, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes tweeted: "U.S. will review Russian proposal. We want Syrian [chemical weapons] under [international] control. Important that this only proposed [because of a] credible threat of [military] action."
There is no way to know, though, whether Syria is taking Kerry's non-serious Syria suggestion seriously, or if it is just using the episode to delay American military strikes.
The news comes as Obama appears to be losing support in Congress and with the American public for his proposed military action. A vote count by The Washington Post currently shows only 24 senators and 26 House members in favor of authorizing a strike against Syria. Plus, a new CNN/ORC poll shows only 40 percent, the lowest ever for a CNN poll, approve of the job Obama is doing on foreign policy, and 63 percent said they disapprove of his handling of the situation in Syria.