I refer, of course, to the "deal" hashed out in the last couple of days between the US and Russia on Syrian chemical weapons. There is a bewildering blizzard of press accounts on it, most probably wrong, so I see no point in trying to look into the "details" of the text. We can, however, glean the general ideas that guide the "deal" and the "deal makers."
First, however, a general observation. This "deal," and the manner in which Russia maneuvered, is an object lesson in the importance of leadership. As in sports where a team of very talented individual players can get outplayed by a team of middling individual talents led by a strong coach, so it is in international relations. To use Nathan Bedford Forest's great word, it is not necessarily the side with the "mostest" that will win. Putin and Lavrov showed themselves strong, committed leaders who used their ostensibly weaker team to outplay in every way the lumbering, blubbering Obama and Kerry.
That said, what is the main purpose of the "deal"? The Obama misadministration wants of course, to have us all forget the horrible manner in which the misadministration handled the matter with its "red lines" that weren't "red lines" except when they were the world's "red lines" requiring an unbelievably small, limited duration American military effort, if the Congress approved, although it didn't need to, and, well, just never mind, don't approve it for now. The misadministration wants Syria out of the headlines and on the back-burner when the 2014 Congressional mid-terms roll around. Let me correct that, as with Benghazi, the misadministration wants whatever is said about the issue to be far from the truth, confusing, irrelevant, and not in any way the misadministration's fault. In fact, I can already see the misadministration gradually changing the narrative; it will soon appear--mark these words--that Obama-Kerry avoided a war that the Republicans wanted. Obama was JFK in the Missile Crisis--not at the Bay of Pigs. McCain, so slavishly loyal to Obama's mishandling of the affair, will be left out to hang as a warmonger.
The Russians? The "deal," as I noted before (here and here, for example) makes Russia, a nation much weaker than the USA, the Big Man in the Middle East. Putin and Lavrov are the "go to" team for "resolving" intractable problems. The ease with which Russia outplayed the US is noticed in the Middle East and elsewhere. The deal has bought time for Russia's--and Iran's--man in Damascus, Assad, to appear reasonable and cooperative, without being either--you watch--while the opposition to him, already a very problematic bunch, gets more and more negative publicity and loses international support. The atrocities of the opposition, which appear considerable, will be pinned on the US and the West. The inept handling of Syria by the US side, makes it that much harder for the US to play hardball with the Iranians, and Russia is taking advantage of that. Russia is positioning itself to be the "solver" of the Iranian problem, while Team Obama busies itself with ever less credible rattling of its sabers.
The "deal" will be, I promise you, a multinational mess that will require seemingly endless discussions and travel and drafts of this and that protocol with this and that amendment. To get a hint of what's coming, let's see what my old friend Foreign Minister Lavrov has to say. He stated over the weekend,
"Any violations of procedures ... would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures . . .. Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions. All violations should be approved by the Security Council."There you go. That's the whole thing in a nice tight bundle. The game is in the hands of the UNSC which will decide what is a violation and what measures to take if there is a violation. Obama and Kerry would, therefore, have to go it alone, again, if they want to punish Assad. Think they have the stomach for another round of this game? After badmouthing the UNSC and the UN, the Obama people have turned the game over to the UNSC and the UN. Think of Haile Selassie at the League of Nations, trying to get that body to act after Mussolini used chemical weapons in Ethiopia--worked well, eh?
Well, I''ll bet I know who's feeling a little sheepish right about now: How about two GOP Senators by the names of McCain and Graham? They went out of their way to identify not only with the dodgy opposition to the thug Assad, but with the Obama misadministration's mishandling of the Syria "crisis." It seems, nevertheless, that even these two can learn, and they declared in a joint statement,
"This agreement does nothing to resolve the real problem in Syria, which is the underlying conflict that has killed 110,000 people, driven millions from their homes, destabilized our friends and allies in the region, emboldened Iran and its terrorist proxies, and become a safe haven for thousands of Al-Qaeda affiliated extremists . . .Thanks, guys, but a bit late, don't you think?
We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon," said Graham and McCain, who was the Republicans' nominee for president in 2008.
Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world using every trick in Saddam Hussein's playbook. It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama Administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and (Russian President) Vladimir Putin."
As I noted, watch as the narrative becomes that Obama saved us from a war that the GOP wanted.