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Rubin Reports

Syrian Diplomacy?

September 11th, 2013 - 9:38 am

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.

Another neglected question is what the Obama administration wants in Syria: regime change, continuity, or a deal? In other words, for the war to go on as long as possible, a Muslim Brotherhood government, or a de facto partition deal?

Remember that two other administration policies that were aiming at regime change have been forgotten here: arms to the Syrian rebels and training. Clearly the Obama goal of expanded arms supplies to the rebels had to be abandoned because of bad publicity like radicalism and cannibalism.

Yet there are hints that this administration wants regime change and is using the attention of the Syrian crisis to further it. The constant cry of Kerry and others is “no boots on the ground.” But what about boots on the ground in Turkey and Libya (for weaponry) and Jordan (for training)?

In addition, nobody has asked what groups are being trained. Of course it is not al-Qaeda, but it may be the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and non-Arab Turkey also support this long-term U.S. goal because of opposition to Iran and the Turkish government’s Islamist ambitions. Regime change, not two days of bombing in Syria, is the only important question.

But to return to a second possible deal, only if Iran and America favor de facto partition — because they secretly think the war is unwinnable — might they agree to the 40-40-20 division. Perhaps Bashar al-Assad knows that is the best he can get.

That might be interesting to explore. I don’t know, though, if anyone is interested.

Finally, there is the third potential deal. A de facto partition of Syria could establish the serious foundation for a compromise on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue. I want to make it clear that I do not think this is really going to happen. But President Obama might.

President Obama and his administration think that Iran now has a relatively moderate government. This means that Iran can stall a long time to fool the West on negotiations, perhaps even to the end of Obama’s second term. Watch for this thinly concealed game. The West wants to be fooled.

As for Obama’s immediate strategy, however, it seems to be — in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry — a very short, narrowly focused, minimal bombing. Remember, though, that this is not important.

The question of whether the United States hits Syria one time is unimportant (it probably won’t).

What is important is the shape of the civil war if the U.S. attack takes place. It now seems an attack is unlikely. But as Hilary Clinton once said, “What difference does that make?”

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All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Thanks to our little league president now Russia has gained moral stature in the world and American forces everywhere have seen the risk of attack increased. Americans may be going through a Liberal phase but I am not ready to believe that Americans have been turned into a cowardly bunch of sh*t for brains losers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Where is the physical evidence.
I have read that the gas was delivered with rather low tech rockets that have a large liquid capacity and burst and spread in the air.
If parts of these rockets exist, it should not be too hard to figure who made them.
Will we be given any facts.
Or is it all for the children.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Read the article by Richard Fernandez on of 8 Sep 2013 titled Advances in Malice. It has photos and a couple links to reports with photos of the bombs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This adventure was all about regime change and had nothing to do with chemical weapons. Assad doesn't need gas, he has an abundance of conventional weapons and an open pipeline e for more via Russia and Iran. Ignoring the obvious, i.e. removing Assad's gas weapons in midst of an ongoing civil war is an exercise in delusion, concentrating on the chemical weapons to the exclusion of regime change is an admission of defeat. The entire world is aware of this except for Obama, Kerry and their sycophants.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Support for the Putin proposal does not prevent the financial, tactical and diplomatic support of the Iranian rebels.

Securing and disposing of of Syrian weapons does NOT have to be a victory for Iran.

Of course expecting Obama to walk and chew gum at the same time may be foolishly optimistic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

To remember 9/11 is to remember who and what inspired it. Chiefly, it was Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Muslim Brotherhood. While Osama bin Laden was the charismatic leader of al Qaeda, before he met Zawahiri, who would become his spiritual mentor, bin Laden was not anti-American. Osama’s father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, a Yemeni, had risen to the top of Saudi social circles and was personal friends with the King. The family was (and still is) so respected that George H.W. Bush served on the Board of the Carlyle Group, a company with close ties to the family. This is not meant to be conspiratorial – on the contrary, it shows just how mainstream and acceptable a family raised Osama. When he went to fight the Soviets, he was acting with support of the Saudi and American governments. It was Zawahiri, a student of the ideological father of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, who convinced bin Laden to turn his terror network’s fury on America.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Good points. OBL was essentially sent to Pakistan as a Saudi gov't agent. Saudis and Gulf Arabs contributed huge amounts of money to him and to al Qaeda for years. Meanwhile, the US maintained generally good relations with Pakistan, whose ISI was a bulwark and partner for the Taliban and even al Qaeda. OBL was found sheltering in a town central to the Pakistani military elites; and Clinton-Obama gave the Pakistanis a pass on the Mumbai slaughter in which the ISI was fingered as organizer by the sole surviving terrorist. It's all pretty uncomfortable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Having Russia take control of Syrian chemical weapons is a terrific idea since no doubt they played a big part in creating them. While we're at it, Russia can take control of Iran's nuclear weapons. And hey, if Cuba decides to once again get nuclear missiles Russian can take control of those too. Then the world will be a much safer place. I wonder why the Kennedy administration didn't realize this at the time? (In case you can't tell, this paragraph is sarcastic.)

I am wondering whether the "hands off Syria" protesters are sponsored in some way by Russia.

It seems to me that Russia would not agree to a partition of Syria. It also seems unlikely to me that this would be agreeable to the State Department. Do we not remember that valiant and brilliant general, Colin Powell, the turncoat pretend I'm a Republican but race trumps everything phoney, who made clear that Iraq would not be "Balkanized"?

And where are the feckless pretend higher morality Europeans in all this? Suddenly they have become largely invisible. Only when Israel is the object of their derision do they act.

There are films of Kerry from the 60's saying how the Vietnam War was immoral and that the U.S. has no business interfering in a civil war. And when the U.S. pulled out, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were killed. Where was the moral outrage then? Where was the necessity of intervention in Sudan? In Africa when there were mass killings?

The Assad regime should have realized that that killing a hundred thousand people with bullets or a machete is okay, but killing 1,300 people with poison gas is not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"President Obama and his administration think that Iran now has a relatively moderate government. This means that Iran can stall a long time to fool the West on negotiations, perhaps even to the end of Obama’s second term. Watch for this thinly concealed game. The West wants to be fooled." It's kind of like "Please, Daddy, tell me these are nice tigers and they won't eat me?" It also reminds me of German psychologist Alice Miller's famous dictum: 'No matter what the parent does, the child interprets it as love.' The thinking of this administration is actually like that of a child. At least when Hitler got to the delusional stage he merely issued orders to nonexistent divisions, he didn't convince himself that Uncle Joe was a moderate who was going to let him keep East Prussia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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