The Syrian political opposition is dead set against the brand-new Obama-administration policy to pursue a new diplomatic negotiation with Russia in an effort to avoid a military strike on Syria, saying the delay and possible cancellation of Obama’s strike would only embolden Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Early Monday morning Washington time, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to a question at a London press conference by saying the Syrian regime might be able to avoid a U.S. strike if it turned over all its chemical weapons within a week. Kerry added that he didn’t expect that to happen. By the end of the day Monday, the Obama administration had turned Kerry’s comments into a new U.S. policy, and President Obama personally pledged not to strike Syria until his administration had explored Kerry’s idea, which was subsequently endorsed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“Most of Washington woke up and read another gaffe by Kerry and thought it was just that,” one U.S. official told The Daily Beast. “By the end of the day, it seems like it is a new policy under serious consideration.”
For members of the Syrian opposition who view the strikes as a needed boost in their two-and-a-half-year struggle against the government, the prospect that Obama is backing down from his aggressive stance on striking the Syrian regime is the latest in a string of delays they call unhelpful and unwise.
“I really believe that this regime has had so many opportunities and we shouldn’t wait. We need immediate accountability. I doubt very much that the regime would give up its stockpile of chemical weapons just to avert a strike,” said Khalid Saleh, official spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, in an interview. “The regime has committed so many crimes against humanity and was allowed to get away with it. A delay would embolden the regime more.”
The Syrian National Coalition has been working with Syrian-American organizations to lobby members of Congress to support the president’s efforts to carry out limited strikes against the Assad regime. The coalition says it has always seen the strikes as a needed step to punish the regime and change the momentum on the ground.
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