THE BLOG
12/09/2013 08:52 BST | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Stumble Diplomacy

The words of the Russian foreign minister were simply unfathomable just over a week ago, as rhetoric and tension built over the suspected use of chemical weapons by Bashar Al Assad on his own people, crossing the 'red line' issued by President Obama in 2012.

"If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus"

The words of the Russian foreign minister were simply unfathomable just over a week ago, as rhetoric and tension built over the suspected use of chemical weapons by Bashar Al Assad on his own people, crossing the 'red line' issued by President Obama in 2012.

From condemnations of an 'abhorrent' attack, Mr Obama shifted emphasis from potential drone strikes to a UN Security Council resolution. So what changed? The answer: the game changer, or more appropriate, the game staller, Congress.

Unexpectedly and somewhat historically, President Obama- branded by many Tea Party Republicans as the destroyer of the constitution, decided to honour the wishes of the Framers; giving Congress the ultimate decision as whether to intervene militarily in Syria or not; going against precedent of recent times.

Of course, the President needed some form of mandate, as the UN showed contempt at the idea of drone strikes, and the international community seemingly abandoned the idea of military intervention- I'm sure Ed Milliband won't be on Mr Obama's Christmas card list.

Hand slightly forced, Mr Obama called on Congress to pass a resolution authorising military drone strikes. And Congress did as Congress usually does, very little. Over a week after the President's speech, little more has occurred but a vote timetabled in the Senate after the military authorisation committee approved the bill.

Momentum quelled, Senators and Congressmen were given time to wake up, smell the coffee and decide accordingly which way they would vote; which according to the Washington Post's 'whip count', is not looking too pretty for the President.

Ergo, Mr Kerry's somewhat schizophrenic soliloquy: like a pendulum swaying between diplomacy and war with potential cataclysmic effects.

All of a sudden people were talking. The G20 meeting seemed ideal, and leaders around the world were quick to voice their opinions. Mr Cameron, in particular, anxious to draft a UN security resolution. All opinions voiced, were reluctant to believe Syria and Russia (scepticism probably not unfounded). As I write, there remains a murky picture blurring two potential paths of action.

From what started out as not just a threat, but an impassioned call of vindictive anger, Mr Obama has potentially turned his 'seven and two' into 'pocket aces'. Never at any point was the President actually bluffing, but with Congress acting as the usual thorn in his side, he was forced to make of the situation all he could; otherwise he would be embracing certain lame-duck status and historical condemnation, approval ratings potentially falling to 2008 George Bush levels.

With several stumbles and the help of a suspicious 'friend', the President may just have salvaged a dire situation; (does Mr Putin also want a peace prize)?

Much remains to be seen, and much seems suspicious, (as it always seems when Russia are involved) but happily enough for all, potentially, the end is in sight and the US and Russia are making love not war.