ABC on Friday morning again tried to prop up Barack Obama's handling of Syria, hyping "encouraging news" and "signs of hope." Reporter Martha Raddatz touted White House spin on Russia's involvement in plans to secure chemical weapons, asserting, "Secretary Kerry saying the dialogue thus far has been constructive. What a difference a few days and a threat of force makes." [MP3 audio here.]
She failed to highlight a story in the Wall Street Journal that Syria's military has secretly moved chemical weapons to "as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track." This ominous piece of news wasn't revealed until the 8am news hour – and then only in a 19-second news brief. Instead, Raddatz trumpeted meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: "This morning, before round two of talks, encouraging news. Secretary Kerry saying the dialogue thus far has been constructive." On Thursday's World News, Raddatz put America and Russia on equal footing, touting a "showdown of world titans."
Writing in the Journal, Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Nour Malas explained:
A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.
The movements of chemical weapons by Syria's elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.
On Monday's World News, anchor Diane Sawyer promoted the same talking points, heralding an impactful White House strategy: "And moments ago, I sat down with President Obama who seemed to be signaling the tough stand by the U.S. may have caused a dictator to back down."
A transcript of the September 13 GMA segment is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to get the latest on the crisis in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry's high-stakes diplomacy to get the Syrians to give up chemical weapons continues today in Switzerland. ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz tracking all of the developments. And Martha, a little tension between Kerry and his Russian counterpart yesterday. Today, he's calling the talks constructive.
MARTHA RADDATZ: He is, George. There's bound to be drama in these complicated and urgent talks. But this morning, some signs of hope. This morning, before round two of talks, encouraging news. Secretary Kerry saying the dialogue thus far has been constructive. What a difference a few days and a threat of force makes. After denying for years he even possessed chemical weapons, Bashar al Assad now says Syria will join the International Chemical Weapons Convention, which would require it to declare and destroy its stockpiles of more than 1,000 tons of chemicals. But Assad said Syrian officials would take at least a month before turning over weapons, in what he called standard procedure. Secretary of State John Kerry flatly rejected the request.
JOHN KERRY: This is not a game. It has to be verifiable. It has to be credible. There ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place.
RADDATZ: While Russia and Syria want the threat of a military strike removed while talks continue, Kerry said, that is not happening.
KERRY: President Obama has made clear that should diplomacy fail, force might be necessary to deter and degrade Assad's capacity to deliver these weapons.
RADDATZ: And while progress has been made, there's a long way to go before even the most basic trust is established.
KERRY: [To Russian counterpart] You want me to take your word for it? It's a little early for that one.
RADDATZ: But the goal is clear. Both men agreeing that they want this resolved as the Russian foreign minister said this morning, "We want it resolved quickly, professionally and as soon as practical."