Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Saving face

In an apparent attempt to save face over a potential defeat in the Congress of the bill to authorize a strike on Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, Pres Obama is prepared to accept a Russian proposal to have Pres. Assad's chemical weapons put under international supervision, as he said in his address on Tues evening. This proposal apparently arose out of an exasperated statement by Secty of State Kerry at a press conference in London, when questioned by reporters over what could avoid such a military strike. He said something to the effect that "I suppose if he (Assad) were to put his chemical weapons under international supervision we might accept that, but he won't." Russian FM Lavrov jumped on the suggestion and publicly declared that Assad would accept such a proposal and Syrian FM Moallem immediately followed up with a supporting statement followed by Pres. Assad himself. Later Pres. Obama said that he had actually discussed this possibility with Pres. Putin of Russia at the recent G20 Summit in St. Petersburg.

This all looks good, and could avoid such a strike and any of its potential consequences. The problem is, can it be achieved and will Assad cooperate fully with it. Of course, he and his regime have prevented UN observers from visiting such facilities many times in the past, why would they actually allow it now. The answer is that they really want to avoid a strike by US forces that could have a potentially damaging effect on the Assad regime, and might lead to its downfall. This is the main aim of Assad, to ensure the continuation of his family business, running Syria. Therefore the credibility of Pres. Obama's intention to strike Syria becomes the basis for such a diplomatic solution.

The Iranians have become masters of prevarication and delay in dealing with the international community over their development of nuclear weapons, but hopefully in this case urgency will ensure a quick and verifiable outcome. Congress is supporting this face-saving measure, no strike and getting rid of the chemical weapons are now included in its draft bill, that would delay implementation of any stike by 2 weeks. The French at the UN Security Council are already drawing up a draft resolution, that might have the US and Russia both voting for it. Once that is accomplished, if it can be, then there is the question of implemenation and the subsequent destruction of all Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, the largest in the world, which are illegal under international law. If that actually happens, and can be verified, then everyone will be happy and Obama will save face.


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