U.S. open to a U.N. resolution on Syria without threat of force

President Obama isn't ruling out the use of military force against Syria.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration says the U.S. is open to a United Nations resolution that does not include the threat of military force against Syria if the government fails to surrender its chemical weapons.

Administration officials said Friday that they didn’t believe Russia would agree to a resolution authorizing military action against Syria, its ally, but that at a minimum they would like to see sanctions or other consequences listed in the resolution.

Speaking to reporters at a background briefing, the officials said one possible consequence would be reconsideration by the U.N. Security Council, which could call for military force later.

The officials also did not rule out the possibility of unilateral action by the United States without a mandate from the U.N.


The shift, described by administration officials who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, is an indication of the White House’s weak hand in the unfolding negotiations between world powers.

Russia and China would probably exercise their veto powers against any resolution that included the threat of force. And the administration will face challenges trying to gather international support to force the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies.

President Obama continues to say that the United States reserves the right to launch military strikes against Syria, which it holds responsible for an Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds of people. Still, he has signaled that he is reluctant to take that step unless he has more international and domestic support.

The decision also suggests that, despite the administration’s declaration that it will seek to force Syria to move quickly to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal for destruction, the process may be drawn out, and may involve complicated diplomatic maneuvering.


It is not clear how much leverage the administration would have by threatening sanctions, since world powers have already piled on economic punishments with limited effect.

Still, after a week of talks, advisors to Obama say they see signs that Russian officials are serious about trying to see through a diplomatic solution to the crisis. They cite, for example, the decision by Russia to send a significant technical delegation to Geneva for meetings between Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


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