The idea of a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis is ideal for the Obama administration, but that doesn’t mean it would be for U.S. interests.
So far, Syria, Russia, and the United States have endorsed an idea that the Russians would take control of Syrian chemical weapons. The Iranians would probably agree. Obama would, of course, claim victory. The mass media would joyfully celebrate how he avoided war. Of course the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians could better claim victory. (I’m starting to wonder whether Russia won the Cold War both ideologically and strategically, but never mind that for now.)
But aside from this, there are serious implementation and strategic issues that would have to be worked out. Let’s start with the former.
An international committee would have to be established, which might take months to get set up. Syria — and perhaps Russia and Iran — would stall for time. No real deal might ever be reached.
In other words, the seeming end of a deal would only be the beginning of a deal. Check this out. And no final agreement might ever be reached or enforced.
Then, there are actual enforcement issues that would have to be hammered out, even if a deal were reached. For example, would chemical weapons inspectors be allowed sufficient access to ensure that Syria was complying? Would implementation depend on Putin’s personal word?
And consider the substance of the deal:
Russia promises that Syria will not use chemical weapons again. America says: Okay, this one time, we’ll let you get away with it.
And what happens the next time? It starts all over again.
Next, there are the strategic issues. In this incredibly wordy debate over the Syrian crisis — which has revealed so little of substance — few have asked what Iran wants. Does Iran want a total victory in which Syria would become a virtual Iranian satellite? The survival of the current Syrian regime in all of the country? Or would it settle for the regime’s survival in part of the country?
If Iran wants total victory of this type, then the U.S. cannot make a deal with Syria. It is a strategic threat.
If Iran and Russia want to win the civil war, no compromise is possible. The deal would just help Syria while bailing Obama out of a tough situation. The deadlocked war would go on, still at 40 percent regime, 40 percent rebels, 20 percent Kurds, with no real change likely in the near future.