President Barack Obama has vowed that Syria will be held
to account if it fails to live up to its promises to surrender
chemical weapons as he faced questions about how a deal
brokered by U.S. and Russian diplomats would be enforced.
In a statement, Obama said a framework deal was an important,
concrete step toward getting Syria's chemical weapons under
international control so they can ultimately be destroyed.
The deal emerged from Geneva talks between U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"While we have made important progress, much more work
remains to be done," said Obama.
Obama has been bombarded with criticism for his handling of
Syria and a muddled message. First, he took U.S. forces to
the brink of a military strike over an August 21 poison gas
attack in Syria that Washington blames on Syrian President
He then asked Congress to authorize the strike, but less than
a week later requested lawmakers hold off on a vote to allow
diplomacy more time.
He now faces questions about how the Syrian diplomatic deal
will be enforced. Senior administration officials said on
Friday the United States will not insist that the use of
military force be included among the consequences Syria would
face in a U.N. Security Council resolution being negotiated,
in order to avoid a Russian veto.
Obama, in his statement, insisted that the United States
"remains prepared to act" should diplomatic efforts fail.
But Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who
have sharply criticized Obama's handling of Syria, said the
deal is meaningless unless backed up with the threat of
"It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this
agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic
blind alley," they said.
But Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic minority in the
House of Representatives, disagreed. She said the agreement
will allow for enforcement under the U.N. charter's Chapter
7, which covers the use of military force.
"The firm and united response agreed upon today to end
Syria's deadly use of chemical weapons was only made possible
by a clear and credible threat of the use of force by the
United States," said Pelosi.
Obama said the United States will continue working with
Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and
others to "ensure that this process is verifiable, and that
there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply
with the framework agreed today."
"In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military
force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives
through diplomacy," he added.
U.S. forces were still positioned for possible military
strikes on Syria.
"We haven't made any changes to our force posture to this
point," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement
Obama, briefed on the results of the Geneva talks by his
national security adviser, Susan Rice, said he had spoken to
both Kerry and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
Samantha Power, who will lead U.S. efforts on the U.N.