JimmyCarterConvo

Carter: U.S. Should Work Out Arms Deal With Syria

Former President Jimmy Carter openly opposes a military strike on Syria and expressed hope in a Russian-brokered deal to allow the Middle Eastern country to declare and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision. 

A diplomatic solution is preferable to the use of force, Mr. Carter said at a town hall-style meeting Sept. 10 at The Carter Center in Atlanta. 

“The military strike will not solve anything,” Mr. Carter said just before President Obama addressed the nation in a prime-time speech.

Mr. Obama sought to allay Americans’ concerns while building his case for a military strike, saying that the U.S. can’t turn a blind eye to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s alleged use of poison gas in an attack on rebel forces that killed 1,400 people, including hundreds of children.

But Mr. Obama noted in the speech that he had asked Congress “to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.”

Mr. al-Assad has acknowledged that his regime has chemical weapons but did not admit using them in Syria’s protracted civil war. He agreed on Sept. 11 to join the treaty banning the use of chemical weapons, citing Russia’s urging and saying that the U.S. threats had nothing to do with his decision.

The task now for the international community is dismantling the stockpiles in a way that is safe and verifiable. Meeting with Russian leaders Sept. 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria must move quickly to prove that its pledge is credible.

Mr. Carter said that he thought Mr. Obama made the right decision to seek congressional authorization for military strikes, even if his proposal is ultimately rejected.

“If the vote is ‘no’ in the Congress, it will not be a catastrophe for the credibility of the president,” Mr. Carter said.

He did say that the U.S. should be a global leader in efforts to deter the use of chemical weapons.

“Something needs to be done cooperatively and collectively to make sure something like this never happens again,” Mr. Carter said.

In August, the Carter Center called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a ”grave breach of international law that has rightfully outraged the world community” but said strikes against Mr. al-Assad’s regime without broad international support would also be illegal under international law.

At the Sept. 10 event, the former president and his wife, Rosalynn, spoke on other issues the Carter Center is addressing.

Topics ranged from election finance reform to the Carter Center’s role in the nearly completed work to eradicate dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease.

He said the Carter Center expects Guinea worm cases to have dwindled to 150 worldwide by the end of this year, mostly in South Sudan. More than 3.5 million cases existed in the 1980s before the implementation of a massive educational campaign in which the Carter Center played a key role.

The Georgia Institute of Technology‘s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs is hosting a Sept. 16 event where experts will discuss the issue of potential U.S. intervention in the Syrian crisis. For more information, click here.

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This story has been updated for its 9/12 publication with Global Atlanta here.

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