Peaceful Pause Delivers “Stunning” News

by James M. Wall

Kerry Lavrov in Geneva Reuters from Ha'aretzNo one ever said diplomacy was easy. Many have said it is messy. But one thing is certain: Diplomacy is better than destruction.

Thanks to diplomacy, which weathered recent negative media cries of incompetence, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the U.S. and Russia have reached what one news outlet called a “stunning” agreement.

The Secretary made the announcement from Geneva mid-day Saturday, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Daily Beast report by Christopher Dickey, begins:

“In a stunning agreement that could lead to the end of the Syrian crisis, Russia and the U.S. announce a plan to eliminate Assad’s chemical arsenal. 

The diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva today is simply stunning. The “framework agreement for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons” reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivers, in writing at least, just about everything President Barack Obama demanded when he threatened to attack the Assad regime earlier this month.

The agreement calls on Syria to declare in detail its entire chemical arsenal within weeks and destroy it – along with everything involved in making it – within five or six months.”

The agreement,  Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemicals, was released by the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

The Framework begins:

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

For this purpose, the United States and the Russian Federation have committed to prepare and submit in the next few days to the Executive Council of the OPCW a draft decision setting down special procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof. The principles on which this decision should be based, in the view of both sides, are set forth in Annex A. The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war.

A major storm of political negativity is expected  to greet the news in Israel, which had earlier massed its U.S. lobbying troops (AIPAC leading the charge) in a desperate effort to gain congressional support for a U.S. military assault on Syria’s chemical weapons sites.

AIPAC failed to move even its most ardent admirers in a U.S. congress that knows its voters are weary of wars, and especially unwilling to become involved in Syria’s two and one half year old civil war.

Secretary of Kerry was expected to fly from Geneva to Tel Aviv to brief Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu on the Framework. As he well knows, the issue with Israel is not so much Syria as it is Iran. Israel, with its own heavy arsenal of nuclear weapons stashed away in the desert, wants the U.S. to force Iran to give up any plans for building its own nuclear stockpile.

Not attacking Syria, but turning the assignment over to diplomacy, was not what Israel, with Iran as its major target, wanted to see.

Republican war hawks and Israeli-backers in the Senate were quick to join Israel’s complaints about the peace agreement.  The Washington Post reported:

News of the agreement drew immediate criticism from prominent Republicans in Congress,some of whom had supported the idea of airstrikes against Assad after last month’s use of chemical weapons, putting them briefly on the same side as Obama.

“What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement — they see it as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part,” Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said in a statement Saturday. “We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon.”

Aware of the criticism ahead, but clearly pleased with the Framework Agreement, Kerry’s announcement in Geneva was forceful.

He also knows there are more storms ahead. And for this reason, it is appropriate that we close, on this day of stunning news, with James Weldon Johnson’s hymn that calls on us to:

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.”

The picture of Kerry and Lavrov is by Reuters. It  is from Ha’aretz.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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6 Responses to Peaceful Pause Delivers “Stunning” News

  1. Urbane Peachey says:

    The U. S. and half the world is in peril over Syria and neighboring countries. The conflict is not yet over. Military intervention is NOT the final option. Diplomacy is the last final option. Going on to the next country, the U.S. and Iran have many shared interests, and we need to mount a massive initiative for diplomacy with Iran that we, the citizens mounted for diplomacy over Syria. Read the writings of Dr. Hossein Mousavian, Iranian, presently research scholar at Princeton University Urbane Peachey

  2. Roy Hayes says:

    Thanks for writing this essay, Jim. You and I see eye-to-eye. Peace, Roy

  3. Fred says:

    The American people deserve credit for stopping this war. Congresspeople were inundated with calls, emails and petitions saying NO to an attack on Syria. To kill more Syrians and destroy more of their country, is hardly a way to help the situation. It is, in fact, pretty crazy and cruel.

    The American people stood up to AIPAC and other Israel Firsters pushing Congress and the administration for another war for Israel. This time, the American people, including most Jewish Americans, won against the Lobby.

    Now lets see if we can get Israel to give up its chemical weapons. Israel signed the Ban on Chemicals Treaty but , but it didn’t ratify the treaty, so it still has its chemical weapons stocks ready to use on any nation or people it sees as a threat.

    Of course Israel has hundreds of nuclear bombs ready to go at a moments notice as well, and will keep insisting that only Israel be allowed to have nuclear weapons in the region. Will the world do anything to enforce parity? No, not as long as Israel has AIPAC and its supporters to keep our government in its pocket.


  4. abunaalgodon says:

    It’s not an easy song to sing, Jim, but it sure as hell stirs our hearts with hope.

  5. Chris Wheeler says:


    I’m finding a lot of “Syrian Firsters” are clamouring for war too. But heck, making friends with a large group of arabs who want to be freed from 40-years of dictatorial, autocratic rule, I guess, isn’t in our best interests. You guys would rather support dictatorships and theocracies. Swell!

  6. Sami Joseph says:

    Fred says the American people deserve credit for stopping this war. Whilst I applaud the Americans who opposed the Administration’s declared intention to embark on a fresh round of international gangsterism, the person who really deserves all the credit is actually the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who stopped the war.

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