Next G20 summit may offer way out

Some critics believe President Barack Obama committed a tactical error in stating the use of chemical weapons in the Syria civil war would cross a red line, although the U.S. reaction was not specified.

Turns out, his most troubling move regarding the status of the rebellion was to cancel plans to meet separately with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the coming G-20 summit.

Yet that summit, to begin a week from today, may provide an opportunity to discuss a common interest for both leaders and both nations: seeing a secular government remain in control of Syria.

Last week, President Bashar Assad’s regime reportedly used deadly chemical weapons near Damascus, killing more than 300 people. But independent verification has not been achieved; United Nations inspectors have not confirmed the use of nerve gas.

Wednesday, Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. demanded inspectors look into alleged chemical attacks by rebel forces. Meanwhile, a resolution authorizing the use of military force against the Syrian regime, proposed by Britain, went nowhere in the U.N. Security Council.

Not only are possible unilateral actions by the United States complicated, so are scenarios of how the 2-year-old insurrection might play out. (If, indeed, the civil war does not drag on – remember Lebanon). Would the United States or Russia want to see a government aligned with al-Qaida arise in Syria?

Diplomacy prior to or during the G20 summit next Thursday and Friday may present the best opportunity for the Obama administration to prevent the United States from being drawn into the vortex of turmoil in Syria.