Russian paper to publish Rep. Israel's rebuttal to Putin

In Putin's op-ed column in the Times, published Wednesday, the Russian president pushed back against President Obama's threat to use military force in Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the forces of dictator Bashar Assad. 

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Putin conceded that chemical weapons were used last month, but argued that there's "every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces." He also said the United States has no legal right to launch strikes without the endorsement of the United Nations. 

"We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not," Putin wrote.

"We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement."

Agreeing with Putin, Israel argues "that diplomacy should always be the first preference."

"However, if diplomacy proves to not be an option, I believe the U.S. must degrade and deter the further use of chemical weapons, without boots on the ground and in a limited, focused and swift way," he wrote in his letter, which he addressed to the Russian people. 

"Without a firm response and in the absence of an international agreement," he added, "Assad will feel emboldened to continue gassing people and murder even more innocents."

Syria is one of only five countries in the world that has not signed the international Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the production, storage and use of chemical weapons. The other countries are Angola, North Korea, Egypt and South Sudan.

Past efforts by the U.N. Security Council to hold Assad to account have failed at the hands of Russia and China, Syria's strongest allies.

Putin's letter ignited a firestorm of criticism, particularly for its claims that America is not "exceptional," in response to Obama's argument during his U.S. address Tuesday night.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin wrote in the Times. "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

In his letter to the Russians, Israel did not let those comments go ignored, saying he "hold[s] the exceptionalism of my country dear."

But he ended on a diplomatic note — and a call for Putin to fulfill his promises to help dismantle Assad's chemical cache.

"If your leaders are serious about truly creating a regimen to control and contain chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision in a transparent, verifiable and effective way," he wrote, "then we will be able to add this to the latest example of exceptional achievements partnered by our two nations." 

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