Syria: Russia’s Chemical Weapons Proposal Offers Obama Face-Saving Chance

Obama & AIPAC
Obama & AIPAC

The turn of events was to great extent unexpected. The Russia’s chemical weapons initiative and its following support by Damascus could be a real breakthrough on the way of finding a solution to the drawn-out bloody conflict, no matter there are a lot of problems and colliding interests making the issue so complex.

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The Washington’s acceptance of the Russia’s proposal and the rescheduling of congressional vote on Syria are rather the decisions that the US President was compelled to take. The threat for Syria is still imminent.  In the coming days the White House will do its best to wiggle out of the situation at the negotiation table.

That’s what is confirmed by the Obama’s address to the nation which could be construed any way you like: either the President will strike any time he deems it right or the delayed strike vote will take place before that. [1] Former Obama’s rival, the Senate old-timer John McCain is simply baffled. He said this kind of indecisiveness was something he never met in his life. [2]

Shmuel Rosner, the political editor of the Jewish Journal, believes the Syrian drama has become a farce thanks to President Obama. The Israeli politicians treated Obama with certain degree of mistrust from the very start. Now they know for sure that the first impression was right. Israel will inevitably pay for Obama’s “hesitancy”.

Now Israel should not count on his effective participation in the efforts to gain ground of the way of Israel-Palestine dialogue, nor joint actions to use force against Iran. Putin might have provided Obama with the diplomatic ladder he needed to avoid diving off the wobbly wooden scaffolding that he built for himself,”Rosner said. [3] Many are confused by discrepancy evident in the statements coming from the White House.  State Secretary John Kerry came up with the idea for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and prevent the US strike. Then, all of a sudden, he started to say he was misunderstood. National Security Adviser Susan Rice refused to endorse the initiative saying Damascus could not be trusted and the strike was necessary.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken was believed to say what Vice President Joe Biden thought, We’ll talk to the Russians about it.” He said the proposal comes in the “context of U.S. action and the pressure the President is exerting.” Obama put an end to the dissonance saying he accepts the plan he had already discussed with Vladimir Putin.  Looks like the only man to be aware of all President’s plans was White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and the talks on the elimination of chemical weapons to put off a military strike against Syria were shrouded in great secrecy. The President happened to be on the brink of real diplomatic and political failure. 

The plans to get the support of international coalition ended up in frustration, even the closest ally – Great Britain, alter ego of America, kept away.  The attempt by the “Timbuktu triumpher” President Francois Hollande to step in and take the place of London looked more like a farce. Saudi Arabia was the only one to approve a military action, its heroic deeds to quell any sign of democracy, for instance, the Shiite unrest in Bahrain, as well as its support for Islamists are well known.

The vote in the House of Representatives promised to be a disaster, according to all polls. Republican Senator John Barrassosaid Obama had no choice but ask Congress to put off the vote on Syria. He said it was a right decision because the President would hardly get more that 100 votes out of 435 in the House. The Senator said the President would be defeated in the Senate too.

It’s clear the White House had no indisputable evidence to confirm that it was Damascus that used chemical weapons, something he trumpeted up two weeks ago. There was nothing but logical deductions.

The photos hitting the pages of world media, that President Obama keeps on mentioning out of inertia, are just copies of dubious character appeared like a bolt from the blue right before the chemical attack. The same thing about videos. The public opinion in America has been firmly against the planned action.

Everything gave a reason to believe that the US Congress will follow the example of British parliament to say no to the use of force against Syria. All of a sudden President Putin stretched a helping hand and there was no urgent need for lawmakers’ decision anymore so the vote was postponed for a long time.

It’s not that Moscow is so much obsessed with the idea of Obama’s face-saving. It’s rather a collateral result. The main thing for the Russian leadership is to prevent the Syrian conflict sliding into the quagmire of chaos.  According to Israeli sources, the talks between Syria and Russia went on for at least two weeks and Iran was involved too. 

Allegedly the promise by Moscow to boost conventional weapons supplies to Syria was part of the chemical weapons deal…It’s not known what was promised. The Israeli Second TV Channel reports that Assad needs more combat aircraft, tank spare parts and practically all kinds of arms and ammunition replenished to make up for the war losses. It is possible 24 MIG-29 fighters will be handed over now after their delivery was put off last summer. This way the surrender of chemical weapons by Damascus will only boost its defence potential.

The combat capability will be significantly increased by the forces guarding the chemical stockpile at present. It’s not an occasion that the Syrian armed opposition is demoralized by the new turn of events.   Brigadier General Salim Idris, the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, which is the main Syrian armed opposition group, flatly refused to consider the Russian initiative on chemical weapons transfer under international control.

Obama & AIPAC
Obama & AIPAC

The Western countries display intent to extinguish immediately the emerging light at the end of the tunnel. For instance, the United States, Great Britain and France, the last one playing an especially active part, are trying to push through the United Nations a resolution in the form of ultimatum which mentions the use of force in case of non-compliance according to article VII of the United Nations Charter.

This is utter nonsense, because the article defines the steps to be taken against aggressors. Is Syria attacking anyone? Is it not the one to be threatened by attack? There are no documents making Damascus responsible for anything like that.

The United Nations Security Council has never taken such a decision and, probably, will never do so. Let’s recall that many countries joined the international convention banning chemical weapons without any coercion. Syria wants to do the same thing. It’s Israel who is among those who have failed to say farewell to chemical weapons. 

Foreign Policy has recently published the CIA data confirming that this country has large stockpiles of poisonous chemical agents. As far back as 1982 US intelligence gathering satellites detected chemical weapons storages in al-Khilab near the Dimona nuclear reactor.

According to CIA, Israel expedited the work on chemical weapons after the Yom Kippur war in 1973. The US intelligence detected the test in the Negev desert. In 1992 Israel signed the chemical weapons ban convention but never ratified the document. [4] The Israeli chemical weapons program was used as a reason for starting the Syria program. Now its agreement to join the convention is not even related to the neighbour. 

Now why among all those, who possessed the weapons in the past or possess them now, only Syria is faced with an ultimatum?

By torpedoing normal procedures of adopting a resolution on Syria by the United Nations Security Council, the West is trying to put the blame on Moscow. French media doubts that it’s a step to reach a compromise on Syria. The Moscow’s response on the French draft resolution testifies to the contrary. [5]

The French draft resolution resembles the Austria – Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia which became a prologue to WWI. Then Belgrade agreed with all the conditions of the ultimatum except the most humiliating and minor ones.  But the document was not destined to solve the problem but rather be used as a pretext for launching an attack.

The experts of Stratfor, a global intelligence company, are sure that the war in Syria is still imminent; it is just shifted in time beyond the framework of current round of international talks. [6] The Brookings Institute analysts believe the Syrian crisis is far from finding a solution to, what we have now is just a “diplomatic pause”. They think the crisis will last till the end of Obama’s tenure. [7]

If the Western approach prevails, the Russia’s initiative may complicate things instead of promoting peaceful solution. The situation may become even more complex and the fire could be sparked by a minor provocation, like, for instance, rebels shelling the Israeli territory using chemical-tipped munitions.

According to Israeli media, a few mines launched from Syria on September 12 exploded in the area of Golan Heights.[8] Who knows, perhaps soon it will be announced that the mines were used as Sarin delivery means and the shelling has become “systematic”…

Author: Dmitry Minin
Source: strategic-culture.org



[1]
 http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/10/politics/obama-syria/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

[2]Ibid.

[3]http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/09/israel-aipac-support-obama-syria-attack-congress.html

[4]http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/09/does_israel_have_chemical_weapons_too

[5]http://www.slate.fr/monde/77536/syrie-diplomatie-compromis

[6]http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/analytic-guidance-syria-crisis

[7]http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/09/12-syria-crisis-obama-shaikh

[8] http://www.debka.com/newsupdatepopup/5717/

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