All In   |  September 16, 2013

Diplomacy trumps force in Syria

Chris Hayes talks about the UN report on Syria, as well as the inner-workings of the U.S.-Russia deal and the fate of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Rep. Alan Grayson joins the discussion to talk about the response of fellow lawmakers, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who disagree with the decision for diplomacy over war, and the path going forward with the Syria deal.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are not going to war with syria any time soon. that is the other big news coming out of washington, d.c., today, news of tremendous global importance and a huge victory for the obama administration, thanks to a deal hashed out between the u.s. and russia that could or would eliminate syria 's chemical weapons . under the agreement forged between secretary of state john kerry and russian foreign minister sergey lavrov , syria must now present a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons within one week. international concessions will begin in november, and all chemical weapons must be eliminated by mid- 2014 . the syrian reconciliation minister said the agreement would avoid war and was a victory for syria . the next step is a u.n. resolution formalizing the process, and despite skepticism about syrian compliance, let's all take a second to recognize that this is a pretty amazing, peaceful resolution to what looked just a few weeks ago like an intractable, international crisis moving towards a military strike and further u.s. entanglement in a very bloody and brutal mideast war. as a solution to the precise and now a problem that president obama has identified, the need to reinforce the international norm against the use of chemical weapons . today, u.n. weapons inspectors presented their report to the u.n. security council , finding clear and convincing evidence that, indeed, the nerve gas sarin was used on august 21st in a rocket attack launched in the suburbs of damascus. and while the report was not tasked with and does not draw conclusions about who was responsible for the attack, reading between the lines of the report suggest it was indeed the assad forces. as noted by " washington post ," they were not used by rebels, but sarin was fired from a regime- controlled area . chemical analysis suggests the sarin likely came from a controlled supply, that is, the sarin had chemicals in it specifically indicates its weaponized and the russian rhetoric on the artillery rounds strongly suggest they were russian manufactured. while the reds lucian is hailed by americans in a poll, there are war hawks who are disappointed with recent events. senator lindsey graham speaking today on the syria crisis.

>> i like john kerry . john kerry is a friend of mine. he gave one of the most eloquent speeches a few weeks ago about why we have a duty to get involved in syria . did you hear that speech? did you thought we were going to launch an attack the next day? me, too. what the hell happened? there's a reason for 225 times presidents use military force without coming to congress. have you noticed, we're dysfunctional. when they asked me about coming to congress, i said, please don't.

>> joining me now is congressman allen gracen, a member of that body lindsey graham has much faith in, democrats in who opposed military action in syria . it's an incredible thing to say. what's your reaction to that?

>> i think he should resign and make congress better by leaving it. putting that aside, this is the greatest victory for enforcing peace since the end of the vietnam war . we established an important principle, which is that you can't take the public to war without the public's consent. it's the public's money, it's the public's blood, and now we'll finally see some public input and not have these matters decided by washington elites.

>> and what i think is really interesting is that the way the politics of this play out is that in the president's decision to come to congress, what it did was it created space, it created an opening, right? and it was into that space that this diplomatic solution rushed. and yet, you will see theme who say, well, this shows there is not enough leadership and credibility, all these terms used to counter this kind of motion either by a president and other leaders. what's your response to that who look at this and say, oh, this is a sign of weakness?

>> no, not at all. the president acted upon a humanitarian positive impulse. i understand. we disagreed about the efficacy of what he proposed, but not the fact that something needs to be done to relieve the suffering in seera, and that's sign of strength. as the president said, we are a nation of people who care, and that's good to know. unfortunately, i think the president could not come up with a war plan that could reach any sort of consensus within congress. the last count is 25 house members in favor, 263 against, but that doesn't change the fact the president wanted to do something positive to relieve suffering and we respect him for that.

>> there is fascinating polling out of pew today, which basically said here's where the public is on this, in the wake of this announcement. they support the deal quite a bit, overwhelmingly. they also think they don't trust syria , they don't trust russia and they don't trust it will get rid of chemical weapons . i think it was such a mix of public opinion , because it seemed to precisely capture how complicated people's feelings are about the situation in general. does that sync up with what you generally sense?

>> i think so. i remember a poll saying 57% of the people who supported attacking syria thought it would do no good. that's where we are right now. fortunately, we've come up with a procedure, a plan that actually might eliminate chemical weapons in syria . the fundamental problem with the administration's proposal is that it would not have done that, it would not have presented a new attack or even reduced the supply, the stockpile of chemical weapons in syria . now we have a way to do that, a good plan is much better than no plan or a bad plan.

>> right, and that i think is an important point to point out. even the punitive strike that was on the table before, even if it did as suggested by those engineering it to create the capacity to deliver them there was no identification procedure, there was no the assad regime coming forward, admitting they have chemical weapons . in some ways, this is a more positive outcome than what was on the table with the military strike .

>> the fundamental problem with the strike is that it would have led to proliferation. the intent of reducing command and controls of the supplies, you would have seen the weapons fall into the hands of the rebels and other forces, and that was a terrorist coup that could not be accomplished any other way, and that was very much on the minds of people in the congress as well as the fact that we could not predict or control what the syrian response would be. would they attack u.s. civilians? would they attack the navy fleet ? would they attack our embassies in baghdad or in beirut? they have a lot of options. would they attack our ally in israel or turkey or jordan? we could not predict that. this is the way forward that actually runs none of those risks.

>> there was a "new york times" headline about the fallout from the deal. it says deal represents turn for syria , rebels deflated. and the concreeit of the peace and i've seen a lot of reporters saying the rebels are taking this harshly. they think this is bad for them, that this gives assad credibility. is there a twinge of regret you have as someone who was so outspoken in opposing the war, who i think played an instrumental role in getting the political system to this point where we're now sort of happy about this deal, is there any twinge of regret when you read that headline?

>> which rebels are we talking about? are we talking about the al qaeda graduates or the anti-semites? which group are we talking about? no, we can't make our decisions that way. we have to protect americans. we have to protect america. we have to protect our allies. i can't make up my mind and determine my vote based upon whether a particular group in syria is for or against it. that is completely irrelevant.

>> congressman alan grayson of florida, thank you so much for your time.

>> thank you very much.