U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the deal reached Sept. 14 to strip Syria of chemical weapons but said much remains to be done and warned Damascus to comply with the accord. In a statement, Obama said that if the regime of President Bashar al-Assad does not live up to the deal Washington reached with Syria's ally Russia, "the United States remains prepared to act." Obama said the accord was made possible 'in part' by what he called his credible threat to use force against Syria as punishment for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last month. The U.S. says the attack killed more than 1,400 people while the regime and Russia have put the blame on the rebels. The accord marked a very swift change in the direction of the latest chapter of the Syria crisis. Just two weeks ago Obama seemed poised to order missile strikes against Syria, with the stated goal of degrading its ability to use chemical weapons again. Then he surprised everyone by seeking Congressional approval, effectively delaying any military action for some time. Many U.S. lawmakers opposed more military action for a country recovering from the traumas of Iraq and Afghanistan wars and polls showed voters wary of getting involved in Syria's civil war.
In the words of Obama Sept. 14, "we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy." The new accord gives Syria a week to provide details of its chemical weapons stockpiles, and says Syria must give international inspectors unfettered access to them with the goal of removing them by the middle of next year.
The accord will be encapsulated in a U.N. resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter. That chapter allows for use of force to ensure compliance, although Russia is certain to opposes this once diplomacy shifts to the U.N. "While we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done," Obama said.