Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva on September 12, 2013, to discuss the possibility of Syria handing over its chemical weapons to the international community. This approach was proposed as an alternative to a military strike as a response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus.
Sarin, one of the world's most lethal chemical weapons, has long been stockpiled but is rarely used by states or terrorists. Allegations of attacks on civilians in Syria, if substantiated, would represent a departure from longstanding international practice, this Backgrounder explains.
In his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Stephen Biddle acknowledges that neither the case for nor against using force in Syria is without serious costs and risks. He evaluates the five main goals an attack might be designed to achieve: deterring further CW use and upholding norms against the employment of such weapons; preserving U.S. credibility; enabling a negotiated settlement to the war; toppling Assad and his government; and ending the humanitarian crisis by saving civilian lives.
President Obama spoke to the American public on September 10, 2013, about the U.S. government's response to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. He requested Congress to delay its vote on the proposed military strike, in order to address Russia's proposal of Syria handing over chemical weapons to the international community.
Jonathan Tepperman examines six of the last major U.S. military operations—the Gulf War, Haiti, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and "highlights a few basic principles that should give the Obama administration confidence to forge ahead on Syria today."
Asked by Josh Wartel, from Lake Braddock Secondary School
There is almost never a time when people do not worry about war between major powers. The history here is not a happy one. But there are good reasons to expect a better outcome in the 21st century—as long as both sides are alert and careful.
On the margins of the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, September 5-6, 2013, leaders from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America released a joint statement condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Recent media stories about National Security Agency surveillance address unauthorized disclosures of two different intelligence collection programs. These programs arise from provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, they rely on separate authorities, collect different types of information, and raise different policy questions. As such, where possible, the information contained in this report distinguishes between the two."
"Recent media stories about National Security Agency surveillance address unauthorized disclosures of two different intelligence collection programs. These programs arise from provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, they rely on separate authorities, collect different types of information, and raise different policy questions. As such, where possible, the information contained in this report distinguishes between the two."
On September 4, 2013, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations debated the resolution: "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, and General Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on September 3, 2013, regarding options for U.S. military operations in Syria.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.