The poison gas attack on August 21 that killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, seems to have changed the course of Syria’s civil war that is now over two-and-a-half years in the making and in which - atrocities have escalated from both the rebels and the government forces.
First the US-military-strike was on to punish Syria for using chemical weapons, then Congress authorization for strike was on, and now all of that is put aside with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin scoring the first goal in this saga of Syria’s civil war mess that President Barack Obama put himself and the country in. By casting aside his villain image, Putin is now looking more like a champion of peace at the cost of USA, and perhaps a Nobel Peace prize candidate, should his proposal prevail.
US secretary of state John Kerry and his weapons experts are in Geneva to figure how good is Russia’s 4-step proposal to secure and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control.
Syria would become member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the first step. As a second step, Syria must declare the locations of all its chemical weapons and where they are made in order to secure them. OPCW inspectors in thousands will go all over Syria in the third step to examine and verify all the declared sites and finally in the last step – these inspectors will determine the methods of destruction and then destroy all the declared chemical stockpiles of Syria.
Experts do not believe it will be as simple as stated above considering at least 100,000 people have been killed and over 2 million are rendered refugees in this gruesome civil war. Who will protect thousands of inspectors who could take months, if not years, to complete the monumental task on hand? By Pentagon estimates, Syria has over 1400 tons of sarin, VX, and mustard agents and several thousand delivery systems.
By agreeing to Russia’s proposal, Syria has admitted to possessing chemical stockpile and weapons for the first time. While Geneva Conventions prohibit chemical weapons use by any nation in any warfare, Syria, by not being party to the OPCW, had no requirement for their disclosure. Now they must.
The overall Syria situation is very fluid as over the last three weeks, the U.S. decision making has gone through several pivots with Obama and administration unable to define any concrete and meaningful foreign policy position. Republican Senator Bob Corker after meeting Obama said this: “There’s absolutely no question he’s very uncomfortable being commander in chief at this moment. In personal meetings, he comes across very confident. I wish I could deliver a speech as well as he does. But it’s like he wants to slip the noose. It’s like watching a person who’s caged, who’s in a trap and trying to figure a way out.”
Obama’s speech from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday night was for the express purpose of persuading the American public and members of Congress to support and authorize a limited military strike as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Instead, it came out as a poignant, but cogent, argument for moral responsibility than any particular American interest this strike is needed for. In the end – Putin’s last hour diplomatic solution preempted all the circuitous talks about strike or not to strike.
For now we can all bask in the observation someone made recently: “If war is not urgent, as this one seems not to be, then perhaps war is not necessary.” The doves like us hope and pray for the success of the diplomatic solution, but should it fail – the war cries will be back with even greater crescendo.