CNN lists the details of the wonderful new U.S.-Russian “deal” over Syrian chemical weapons, which mostly consists of Russia tossing a couple of sound-bite bones to the hapless Obama Administration while securing Bashar Assad in power and locking down Russia’s new dominance in the Middle East:
The four-page “Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons” basically says:
– Within one week, Syria must submit a full list of its chemical weapons stockpile.
– By November, international inspectors must be on the ground in the country.
– Before the end of November, the inspectors should complete their initial survey of the weapons sites.
– Also before the end of November, all production and mixing or filling equipment must be destroyed.
– By the middle of next year, all chemical weapons material must be destroyed.
Not even Obama’s loyal sycophants in the American media could possibly believe that all of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles will be destroyed by the middle of next year. The bureaucratic wrangling over this agreement won’t even be over by then. As CNN admits, “It’s true that plans often get watered down at the U.N.” This one will be watered down plenty, and whatever emerges from the U.N. will be watered down even further by Assad and his patrons in Russia.
To modify a famed Daffy Duck quote from a classic Warner Brothers cartoon, Assad is going to wave off John Kerry’s bluster by saying, “Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I’m still in power.” He’s already pressed his advantage by insisting that he won’t begin any WMD handover until he receives assurances from the Obama Administration that they’ll stop trying to arm the rebels. And now, according to Reuters, the Russians are piling on by insisting the American-backed rebels should be forced to attend an international peace conference:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday it may be time to consider efforts to force foes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend an international peace conference instead of just urging them to do so.
Lavrov also accused European countries of trying to reinterpret the agreement he reached with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry under which Syria is to give up its chemical weapons arsenal and avoid U.S. strikes.
Lavrov’s remarks suggested Russia will resist any rush to threaten military intervention if Assad fails to implement the deal and that it will blame the rebels – and the West – if the agreement does not lead to a wider push to end Syria’s conflict.
Lavrov continued to slap Kerry around the world stage by suggesting the Secretary of State was misinterpreting the U.N. protocols for the use of force, and displayed a “lack of understanding” of the deal he just signed with Russia. Team Obama looks just about small enough to play munchkins and represent the Lollipop Guild in a “Wizard of Oz” remake.
There you have it – there won’t be any real “consequences” for Assad. It wouldn’t be surprising if he provoked a bit of crisis next year, just to goat the Obama Administration into more foolish rhetoric that Russia can easily shut down… or to make them back off their words again, the same way Barack Obama cravenly backed away from his “red line” rhetoric. As long as Assad doesn’t do anything blatant and outrageous enough to change the calculus at the U.N, or even give the United States a clear imperative for unilateral action, he’s got plenty of room to maneuver.
Russian smack talk about dragging the rebels into a peace conference highlights the strategic error of Obama waiting too long to get involved in the Syrian quagmire. If he was going to do anything at all, the time was much earlier in the conflict, before the rebels had a chance to rack up so many of their own atrocities, and foreign terrorists had a chance to take over the insurgency. The incoherence of Obama policy also puts him in a bad position against the Russians at the U.N. chessboard, because he can’t talk about the irresistible urgency of removing the Assad regime at all costs. That’s not on the table, so the Russians can easily guide the discussion to focus on the unsavory elements among the rebellion.
Unless Assad does something colossally foolish, it won’t be hard for his patrons to make the case that Syrian WMD confiscation will proceed much more smoothly with him in power. Vladimir Putin does have a clear and simple objective in Syria: keep Assad on his throne of skulls. It’s not surprising that he can win a diplomatic game against an Administration that still disagrees with itself about its objectives, walks back virtually everything it says, and operates under the “leadership” of a President whose primary goal is avoiding responsibility for defeat.
Update: The Syrian debacle summed up in one brilliant Photoshop: