"Leaders in Damascus and Moscow should understand that Congress will be watching negotiations closely," he said. "If there is any indication that negotiations are not serious or will not effectively prevent further atrocities, the Senate will act quickly to give the president the authority to hold the Assad regime accountable."
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who spearheaded an effort to have Obama seek approval from Congress, said he’d support a bipartisan congressional resolution advocating that the United Nations create a Syrian war crimes tribunal to hold the Assad regime accountable for crimes it may have committed.
“It is an appropriate nonlethal, diplomatic next step in the world’s response to Assad’s heinous actions,” said Rigell, who’s a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The Russian proposal wasn’t so well received by Syrian opposition leaders and supporters of intervention in the administration and Congress.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the chief proponents of U.S. military action against Assad, complained Wednesday that Obama failed to mention helping the Syrian opposition in the speech he gave Tuesday night.
“I was very disappointed that the president did not mention the Free Syrian Army and our moral and material assistance for them, which is required. I think they do feel that they are being abandoned," McCain said on MSNBC. “I feel badly, very badly for my friends in the Free Syrian Army today.”
Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s envoy to the United States, said his group still wanted the Assad government held responsible for an alleged chemical attack Aug. 21 in the Damascus suburbs.
“We’re waiting to see the details of it, to see if Russia is really serious this time, and to see if there’s an element of accountability to it,” he said.
Other skeptics of the Russian proposal’s viability point to the extreme difficulties associated with inspecting and transporting huge stockpiles of sensitive materials in a war zone. A U.N. inspection team that recently visited Syria on a much smaller fact-finding mission faced numerous security hurdles, including being shot at. Then there’s the process of cataloging and disposing of the weapons, which experts say can be a complex and dangerous task in the best of circumstances.
“Whether or not CW disposal is difficult or easy is not the point,” Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in a commentary Wednesday. “Should Russia’s proposal to put Syrian CW stockpiles under international control crystallize, it would offer the U.S. administration a ladder to climb down from what remains a largely reluctant and unpopular U.S. call for a military response in Syria.”