Corker: U.S., Russia deal on Syria will crumble without threat of military action

A Syrian disarmament deal struck between Washington and Moscow is destined to fail without the real threat of U.S. military action, according to one Senate Republican.

"Absent the threat of force, it's unclear to me how Syrian compliance will be possible under the terms of any agreement," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said regarding the U.S-Russian plan to force President Bashar Assad to abandon his chemical weapon stockpiles.

Without that threat of U.S. force, "Syria's willingness to follow through is very much an open question," Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Saturday. 

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to begin shifting Assad's chemical weapons to international control, led by the United Nations. 

Should Assad refuse to hand over control of those weapons, the U.N.'s Security Council would vote to authorize military action against Syria, according to details of the disarmament plan. 

However, Moscow remains adamantly opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria, repeatedly blocking efforts American-led in the U.N. to rein in the Assad regime during the ongoing civil war in the country. 

Russia's opposition to military force in Syria, which remains Moscow's top Mideast ally, will make enforcing the disarmament plan incredibly difficult, if not impossible, according to Corker. 

Assad forces are already reportedly moving portions of its chemical weapon stocks to Lebanon and Iraq, in an attempt to evade international oversight, according to rebel leaders in Syria. 

That said, the Tennessee Republican made clear he remains in favor "of a strong diplomatic solution to Syria's use of chemical weapons." 

On Saturday, Obama made clear the disarmament deal included serious "consequences" for the Assad regime if it failed to comply with UN weapons regulators. 

"The United States will continue working with . . . others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today," Obama said in a statement. 

"If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," the President added. 

Further, the Pentagon has no plans to stand down U.S. forces positioned near Syria, in case military action is ordered. 

"We haven't made any changes to our force posture to this point" regarding possible U.S. action in Syria, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Saturday. 

"The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it's important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement," he added in a Defense Department statement. 

American warships armed with long-range Tomahawk missiles have been positioned off the Syrian coastline since late August. 

Obama was poised to order those ships to begin targeted strikes against Assad's forces, in retaliation for alleged chemical weapons attacks against rebel positions near Damascus. 

The White House initially delayed those strikes to see congressional authority for military action in Syria. Those attacks have now been indefinitely put on hold, in favor of the U.S.-Russian disarmament deal. 

But Corker, who voted to authorize military action in Syria earlier this month, has been highly critical of Obama's efforts to end the standoff with Syria. 

The administration's handling of this crisis has hurt U.S. credibility," Corker said Saturday. The Obama administration must not use the disarmament deal "as an opportunity to retreat from our broader national [security] interests," he added.

"It's vital that going forward, the President articulate how his actions protect our national interests in Syria and the region," the Tennessee Republican said. 


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