Ivan Samolovov's Blog

Syria: chemical weapons, birds and football

September 17, 2013

In recent days, the official U.S. position on the situation in Syria has experienced certain transformation. As we know, Russia called for putting Syrian chemical weapons storages under international control which must ultimately lead to its destruction. It is worth noting that the Moscow's proposal hit the bull's eye and was more than likely the only possible solution in this situation. Indeed, our position has not only marked a "wind of change" in our authorities' thinking based on vetoing all Libya-like scenarios at the UN Security Council, but has also galvanized a diplomatic process.


First, the Syrian regime awaring that it is no use denying possession of chemical weapons decided to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on September 14. However, it will enter into force for Syria on October 14. Syria will then become the 190th member of CWC.


Second, the U.S. and many other countries maintained the Russian initiative. Apart from "Geneva 2" it is quite interesting to observe which points President Obama and the State Department stress. For instance, the State Department spokesperson Marie Harf stated during the daily press briefing on September 13 that only the threat of "direct U.S. military action" made possible furhter peaceful steps in the Syrian issue. President Obama said the same thing in his weekly address on the same day. He also argued that the decision to join with Russia on this diplomatic path allegedly fulfilled the U.S. goal, namely "deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrading their ability to use them".
We can thus label the Russian initiative as "two birds" proposal. On one hand, we showed to the world that we do not defend Assad as ardently as we defended Moscow in 1941. On the other hand, our proposal highlighted - not for the first time - the evident uncertainty of the U.S. in using military force. Not long ago, the rebels have already expressed resentment over the failure of the West to deliver arms to them. And now Obama - leaving behind all the "red lines" - lets them down again. Apparently, the position Obama has taken is dodgy for the use - and ipso facto the existence of chemical weapons in Syria - has instantaneously been deemed as casus belli.
The Geneva 2 process appears to be an "emergency exit" which Obama is trying to escape through. Having almost no allies in a presumable military operation the U.S. president obviously has no desire to carry its burden - both material and reputational ("liberator" of Iraq, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize etc.) - all by himself. However, the ongoing conflict in Syria has already passed the point when Assad could share the same "fate" as Qaddafi who abandoned his WMD programm in favor of friendship with the West back in 2003. The Syrian president is no longer the key player. There is a diplomatic football game on the Syrian field. Assad is offside. Russia scores first. The positional play starts...
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