The United States and Russia have reached an agreement that calls for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.
Under a “framework” agreement, international inspectors must be on the ground in Syria by November, Mr. Kerry said, speaking at a news conference with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.
An immediate test of the viability of the accord will come within a week when the Syrian government is to provide a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical stockpile.
“The real final responsibility here is Syrian,” a senior administration official said of the deal.
Security will be a major worry for the inspectors who are tasked with implementing the agreement; no precedent exists for inspection, removal and destruction of a large chemical weapons stockpile during a raging civil war. Mr. Lavrov said the agreement would require the cooperation of Syrian rebels and not just the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Much of the Syrian opposition is bitter about President Obama’s decision to shelve the threat of military action and to negotiate with Russia, which is a major arms supplier to the Assad government.
“This is very, very difficult, very, very difficult,” an American official said of the agreement. “But it is doable.”
And it is better than America entering into another Middle East war of choice. If the Russians want to embroil themselves in such a war — this, even after their Afghanistan adventure — let them make their own mistakes, if indeed they are making a mistake.
In a piece published before this morning’s good news from Geneva, Drew Bowling observes:
[President Obama’s] ineffectual saber-rattling, if carried forward, would almost certainly make nearly every aspect of the chaotic situation worse: aiding al-Qaeda, abetting the massacre of Christians and other minorities, destabilizing chemical weapon bunkers, slaughtering civilians as collateral, ratcheting up regional tensions, inviting bloody blowback, jeopardizing our geopolitical allies, and risking further entanglement—all on the American taxpayer dime. Ironically, a punitive strike could even empower Assad, who would not be targeted for death and would likely gain a morale boost after withstanding an ill-conceived “shot across the bow” from the planet’s predominant military. Restraint was not on Obama’s radar. Nor, apparently, was rationality. One low point occurred when John Kerry, who was against wars of choice before he was for them, suggested that Sunni Arab states would fund Obama’s adventurism. Was he implying that America’s military is a janissary corps to be hired out in Islamic civil wars?
But restraint has been forced on Obama by global opinion, by the American people, and by a rallying congressional Coalition of the Sane—not to mention by Russia, whose president, ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin, has just published a call for peace with a rebuke of American exceptionalism in the New York Times.
From his cat’s cradle of red lines to his war puppets capering in their absurdist theatre of ridiculous and conflicting statements, Obama has transmogrified American foreign policy into a tragicomedy of incompetent and hypocritical militancy. Remember that he first won his presidency on an antiwar platform against Hillary Clinton and John McCain, attacking George W. Bush’s record of counterproductive intervention. But instead of “hope and change,” he continued on the madcap Mideast warpath, triggering a failed Afghan troop surge, executing an executive entrance into the Libyan War that resulted in Benghazi and helped demolish neighboring Mali, and unleashing a hellfire of drone strikes that have killed innocent children and enflamed global jihadist sentiment. That, then, is the Nobel Laureate’s record abroad, even as he expanded the Orwellian security state at home, further constricting civil liberties, and continued to feed American’s insatiable military-industrial appetite. At this point any mention of Guantanamo would be almost gratuitous.
I’m sure Sen. John McCain is on the verge of spontaneously combusting this morning over the news from Geneva. We are going to hear from the GOP’s superhawk wing that Obama has gone wobbly, has caved, has revealed himself to be a squish. It is up to what I hope is a newly emerging Paulite (Rand) wing of the GOP to stand up to the usual hawkish Republican claque. I do not believe that every Republican, at least at the grassroots, opposed Obama’s proposed war on Syria simply because it was Obama’s idea. Those Republicans who did allow themselves to be driven not by principle, but by uncut partisanship, in opposing the president’s plan must be made to consider the principles at issue in this episode, so that when a future Republican president starts up with the same belligerent nonsense, they will resist it just as strongly.