So which secretary of state gets credit -- or potentially blame -- for the chemical weapons deal that was struck between the U.S. and Syria in 2013 that helped avert a U.S. invasion?
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry greet each other on stage at Gaston Hall at Georgetown University in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, during the "Advance Afghan Women" symposium. Kerry and his predecessor, Clinton, said Afghanistan is reaching a turning point that will be critical to maintaining advances made by women since the end of Taliban rule. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
It happened on Secretary of State John Kerry's watch, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said it was his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.
“We’ve got the chemical weapons. We’re getting the chemical weapons out of Syria. She [Hillary Rodham Clinton] laid the groundwork for that,” McCaskill said on Fox News Sunday.
Not true, said the Washington Post, which gave the claim crediting Clinton “three Pinocchios.”
“By all accounts, the chemical weapons deal is Kerry’s baby,” the newspaper sad. “He may have stumbled into it, but diplomats seize such moments when they can, especially when their boss is under political pressure.”
“Clinton, by contrast, was not part of the negotiations or even the preliminary discussions; her only tangential connection is that she was at the G-20 meeting in June 2012 when Obama and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin first discussed Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile,” the Post continued. “In terms of laying the groundwork, her failure as secretary to end the conflict during Obama’s first term certainly created the conditions for the threatened airstrikes and the subsequent deal in the second term — but we doubt that’s what McCaskill meant.”
McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard provided the Post in response with a long list of diplomatic meetings and statements in which Clinton tried but didn't succeed in ending the Syrian conflict.
“Sen. McCaskill believes that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was actively engaged in ensuring a transition towards peace in Syria and the current efforts to remove chemical weapons benefited from her hard work,” LaBombard told the Post.
She with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in June 2012 and December 2012, and said “We have been trying hard to work with Russia to stop the bloodshed in Syria.”
Obama and Putin talked about containing Syria's chemical weapons at the G-20 summit in Mexico in June 2012, which Clinton attended. That August, Obama made the now famous comment, “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
In April, the administration notified Congress of evidence that Syria had used sarin gas. That same month, Secretary of State Kerry and Lavrov talked about the matter.
Then, the Assad regime launched a chemical weapons attack against the rebels. This prompted Obama to talk about a military strike. On Sept. 9, 2013, Kerry referenced the idea that if Syria gave up its weapons, a strike could be avoided.
“He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week,” Kerry said. “Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”
The Post says, “To Kerry’s utter surprise, Lavrov immediately took him up on the offer, hoping to avert an attack on Russia’s most important Mideast client state. But making lemonade out of lemons, the Obama administration decided to see if the Russians were serious. Within days, the two sides met in Geneva to hash out the details — and Kerry kept the talks going even when the Russians were ready to give up.”
“The deal was struck. The airstrikes, which had faced growing opposition in Congress, were canceled,” the Post continued. “The extensive negotiations led by Kerry are lovingly documented in a State Department photo gallery. There are no pictures of Clinton.”