Dem warns: 'Assad has lied before'


Shea-Porter is among the many Capitol Hill lawmakers who opposed President Obama's initial plan to launch targeted missile strikes against Assad's forces in response to allegations that the regime had used chemical weapons on civilians last month.

The military strategy was put on hold this week after Russia, one of Assad's closest allies, stepped in with an offer to help eliminate Syria's chemical cache through diplomatic channels. Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued that the United States had no legal right, under international law, to use military force in Syria without the backing of the United Nations, and he vowed instead to negotiate a non-military response.

The process has evolved quickly, as Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryHe who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Saturday that they'd reached a deal after three days of negotiations in Geneva.

Under their agreement, Syria must submit an inventory of its chemical weapons within a week, international inspectors must be allowed in the country by mid-November, and Assad's entire stockpile must be eliminated by the middle of next year. 

"This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world," Obama said Saturday in a statement. "The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments."

Under the deal, if Assad fails to comply, it would be up to the United Nations Security Council to decide how to respond. 

With Russia indicating that it still opposes military intervention, however, some powerful voices on Capitol Hill are already questioning how the agreement will be effective. 

"Absent the threat of force, it's unclear to me how Syrian compliance will be possible under the terms of any agreement," Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGeorge Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday.

Others are more optimistic. Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Saturday that he's "encouraged by the developments." 

"A diplomatic solution to eliminate his chemical weapons capabilities is preferable to a military one," King said in a statement, "and is doubly important because it would also remove the possibility of the weapons falling into opposition hands if Assad loses power." 

Shea-Porter agrees. The three-term Democrat conceded that the Obama administration has a tough road ahead, but Putin, she added, "also has credibility on the line."

"While we know that this is going to be a great challenge and it requires cooperation on every level, I still believe that we can do this," she said.