- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that Syria's surrendering of chemical weapons to international control would be an "important step" in the ongoing Syrian conflict, although she was quick to note that such promises made by the Middle Eastern country must not be used as "another excuse for delay."
Clinton spoke on the Syria conflict while attending an event on wildlife trafficking at the White House on Monday. Earlier in the day, Syria announced that it had "welcomed" Russia's proposal that the Middle Eastern country turn over its chemical weapons stockpile to international control, where it would then be destroyed.
"This cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely or be held to account," Clinton said of Russia's proposal to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.
"The Assad regime's inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order, and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States," Clinton continued, adding that the world will have to deal with Syria's chemical weapons possession as "swiftly and comprehensively as possible."
Syria's announcement that it will give up its chemical weapons arsenal comes as the Obama administration lobbies members of Congress, who are officially back in legislative session today, to approve a limited military strike on Syria that would target the country's military installations. President Obama and Secretary of current State John Kerry have affirmed that the U.S. has evidence that Syria's President Bashar Assad is responsible for the August 21 chemical attack on civilians in Damascus that killed a reported 1,429.
Clinton added on Monday that Syria's decision to relinquish its chemical weapons was made in response to continued pressure by the U.S. on both Syria and its allies, including Russia and China, regarding a potential military attack.
"It is very important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria's stockpiles only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia," Clinton said.
Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press conference in London on Monday that he would give Syria one week to give up all of its chemical weapons, but added that he had no expectation for President Assad to comply, saying the Middle Eastern leader could not be trusted to give up the chemical weapons he still denies owning.
Clinton has spent the past several days lobbying members of Congress for President Obama's decision to participate in a limited military strike against Syria. Obama argues that the U.S. has an obligation to punish the Assad regime after its alleged use of chemical weapons, arguing that if the U.S. stands idly by, other unpredictable countries, such as North Korea, may choose to use chemical weapons as well and expect international compliance.
Those opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria argue that Middle Eastern conflicts should remain internal, pointing to the U.S.'s expensive involvement during the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan that ultimately did not lead to the discovery of nuclear weapons.
President Obama spent Monday speaking on a series of television networks to push his support for U.S. intervention in Syria. Congress will cast its first vote on Syria on Wednesday, and the president will address the American people in a live telecast Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. ET regarding the Syrian conflict.