By Jonathan Easley - 09/10/13 10:34 PM EDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) embraced a United Nations effort to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles on Tuesday, and acknowledged that the threat of a U.S. military strike was at least partially responsible for the emerging diplomatic solution to the crisis.
“Part of the reason we’re here may be the threat of force,” Paul said Tuesday on CNN’s "Situation Room." “But part of the reason we’re here is also because people like me prevented force from being used about three weeks ago when they [the administration] wanted to bomb.”
Democrats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, have credited President Obama’s threat of force against Bashar Assad as the reason Russia and Syria have recently said they would consider a measure that would require Syria turn over its chemical weapons.
Still, Paul insinuated that the Obama administration had lucked into the potential diplomatic solution, when Kerry spoke off-the-cuff about an offer that the Russians later pounced on.
“I also think that part of the reason we are here and are getting to negotiate is because of an off-hand comment that Secretary Kerry, frankly, I don’t believe ever thought that the Russians would respond to,” Paul said. “So I think the Russians have played an excellent gambit or game of geopolitical chess with us, but it may be to our benefit to see if we can get a negotiated settlement — I think that does have to include Russia.”
On Monday, Kerry tentatively floated the idea that if Assad turned his chemical weapons over within the next week, that it could potentially stop U.S. plans to strike.
The State Department then issued a statement saying Kerry’s comments were not an ultimatum, but rather were rhetorical and that there was no expectation that Assad would ever consider such a move.
Shortly after, Assad’s allies in Russia shocked the international community when Moscow announced it would pressure Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons. Syria's foreign minister, Walid Muallem, said his country welcomed Russia's proposal.
Obama claims that he and Russian President Vladmir Putin discussed the option at the G-20 summit last week.
Paul on Tuesday said he’d be happy to give the president credit for resolving the crisis if the diplomatic solution goes through without any military strikes from the U.S.
“I don’t see this in a partisan way where I have to say the president doesn’t get credit — give credit where credit is due — and if we get a diplomatic solution, absolutely,” Paul said. “I have no problem with saying, yeah, the president would get credit if we get a diplomatic solution.”
“I will say though, that many people have been advocating a bombing for weeks and weeks now, and those of us who have tried to slow this down, including the American public, may have inadvertently gotten to this diplomatic solution, if it comes to fruition, by slowing down the process,” he added.
The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate warned that entering into an agreement with Assad should be “taken with a certain amount of dubiousness,” but that “there’s a potential this could do some good.”