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 KerryOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 | Park Police did not record radio transmissions during June 1 sweep of White House protesters | Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears Biden-Sanders 'unity task force' rolls out platform recommendations Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 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 CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday.

Others are more optimistic. Sen. Angus KingAngus KingKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs The Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages 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.