Monday, September 16, 2013

Russia (& Syria) Rising

These men have a reason to be smiling

Assad Uses Crisis to His Advantage - Brian Stelter

In exchange for relinquishing his chemical arsenal, President Assad of Syria said he will require that the U.S. stop arming the Syrian opposition. He told a Russian TV interviewer that the arms-control proposal floated by his patron in Moscow would not be finalized until "we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists."

Assad, sounding relaxed and confident, hinted in his interview that the Russian proposal could become a lever for endless negotiations and delays, much as Saddam Hussein delayed arms control inspectors during the 1990s. "It doesn't mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations, and that's it," Assad said. He also hinted at another possible stumbling block by saying Israel should ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention first. 
(New York Times)

Assad Has All the Time in the World - Avi Issacharoff

[A] scenario in which the Syrian president actually transfers all his chemical weapons to international oversight, while possible, is not likely. Syria needs this kind of weaponry in order to deter outside players like the U.S. from attempted intervention, and to deter Israel. It is Assad's insurance certificate.

So it is more logical that Assad will agree to hand over part of his chemical weapons, maybe even most, but will keep at least some for himself, just for emergencies.

He has all the time in the world to try to hide this weaponry. It will be weeks until a binding decision is reached at the UN, and even after that, UN delegations will be delayed because of pretexts such as warfare in precisely the areas they are supposed to visit. This could go on for months. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria has been forgotten altogether, as the crisis is reduced to a debate over chemical weapons. Yet since the August 21 chemical attack, 200-250 people have been dying every day in Syria.
[Times of Israel]

Survival of the Syrian Regime Is a "Red Line" for Russia - Fouad Ajami

The sun may have set on the old Soviet empire, but Syria offered Russia the consolation that it could still play the game of the great powers. From the outset of the civil war, Moscow insisted that it would not stand idly by and accept a repetition of what had happened in Libya. By their lights, the Russians had let Gaddafi down when they let slip through the cracks of the UN machinery a proposal that called for the protection of Libyan civilians. The proposal gave NATO the warrant that led to the destruction of the Libyan dictatorship.

This time around, Russia was determined to see its client regime in Damascus to victory.
(Wall Street Journal)

What Russia's Plan Tells Iran - Ariel Ben Solomon
  • Iran observed how Syria, with Russia's assistance, has wiggled out from what was to be limited U.S. strikes. It will take note at how effectively Syria was able to split the international community over the planned attack and how uneasy people in the West are over military interventions in the Middle East.
  • The good news is that Iran, Russia and Syria saw the U.S. threat to use force as real. It was this threat that caused Russia and Syria to come up with this alternate proposal, thus demonstrating that the U.S. is able to modify behavior of rogue regimes if it chooses to do so.
  • Furthermore, the success of the Russian proposal could result in "the U.S. and Russia moving closer together, meaning Iran cannot count on Russia and the U.S. to be on opposite sides regarding its ongoing nuclear progress."
  • "On the negative side, we have yet to see how this plays out, and what Obama does if the Russian proposal does not materialize into an effective plan."
[Jerusalem Post]

New Syria Agreement Is a Big Victory - for Assad - Jeffrey Goldberg

The agreement to begin disarming Syria of its chemical weapons represents an astonishing victory for the Assad regime. So long as he doesn't use chemical weapons on his people, he'll be safe from armed Western intervention. It's safe to assume that he'll increase the tempo of attacks on rebels and civilians in conventional ways, knowing now that he can do so with impunity.

By partnering with Russia and the West on the disarmament process, a process that is meant to last into 2014 (and most likely won't be finished for years), Assad has made himself indispensable. The U.S. now needs Assad in place for the duration. He's the guy whose lieutenants know where the chemical weapons are.

Yet this plan probably won't work. Assad is a lying, murdering terrorist, and such people aren't, generally, reliable partners. Who are the losers in this episode? The Syrian people. So long as they die in conventional ways, no one will pay their deaths much mind.


LHwrites said...

If the agreement works, it is, as the Jerusalem Post rightly noted, because Russia and Syria took the U.S. threats of action seriously. If it does not work, there is always the ability to follow up with action. The reasons Obama did not jump into Syria, despite the humanitarian crisis created by the civil war, are very easy for anyone but our Congress and Fox News, to understand. It is a civil war and not everything is our responsibility though in this modern world, at some point great nations need to draw a line at the humanitarian toll this is taking. And, neither side is appealing , nor preferable. This is one of the many lessons of Iraq. Sadly, everything is not black and white and there may not be a way to "win" or a good outcome for the civilized world--in the Mideast. Suppressing WMD, controlling terrorism and containing their local aggression, while attempting to assist against crimes against humanity; such as mentioned in your 'child bride' article, may be all we can ever hope to accomplish.

Bruce said...

My own view is that Obama should have never drawn a red line on this. Once he did, though, I did hope he'd follow through.

My fear is that Syria/Iran are now more empowered as they're negotiating over chemical weapons. As long as they don't use chemical weapons, Assad is now free to slaughter his people.