Amid all the self-congratulatory back slapping by world diplomats because they believe they’ve avoided war, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are trying to remind them of the nature of the man who is at the center of the deal between Russia and the US.
Assad simply can’t be trusted. And by the time Obama realizes this, it will be impossible for him to carry out a strike on Syria to punish him. Force is off the table — which isn’t a bad thing when considered alone and out of context. But when placed against the price we paid to reach that point, it may have been too costly.
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham criticized the U.S.-Russia agreement Saturday to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, calling it “meaningless” and saying the agreement sends the wrong signal to Iran, which is suspected of building a nuclear weapon.
The Republican senators said the framework agreement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is toothless without the U.N. Security Council Resolution that threatens the use of force should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fail to comply.
The U.S. and Russia reached the agreement to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014, and impose U.N. penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.
“Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world using every trick in Saddam Hussein’s playbook,” the Republican senators said in a statement. “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.”
The senators, who visited Syria in May, reiterated their position that the United States should arm Assad opposition forces in the roughly 2-year-long civil war, in which roughly 100,000 people have been killing and millions have fled.
“The only way this underlying conflict can be brought to a decent end is by significantly increasing our support to moderate opposition forces in Syria,” the statement said. “We must strengthen their ability to degrade Assad’s military advantage, change the momentum on the battlefield, and thereby create real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict.”
It remains unclear whether Syria had signed onto the agreement, which requires the Middle East country to submit a full inventory of its stocks within the next week.
Under the framework agreement, international inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.
Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this week agreed to join.
Talk about a “willful suspension of disbelief,” which “moderate opposition forces” are the Bobbsey Twins speaking of?
But their point about Assad is spot on. With no incentive to cooperate with inspectors, they will be finding chemical weapons for years — if the deal lasts that long. More likely, the UN inspectors will soon drop off the radar and their difficulties will become addendums to long, tedious reports about Assad’s non-cooperation.
Assad is in the process of overcoming major opposition to his rule. The rebellion will continue, probably at a lower level of violence. But the threat to his rule — at least from the rebels — is fading fast.