Archive for September 12th, 2013

A new hope appears in Syria, but Assad’s chemical menace likely can’t be removed peacefully

September 12, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 12, 2013

After some Keystone Kops–like antics and contortions by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration, a partial solution to the brewing Syria crisis suddenly emerged Monday.

Kerry in one breath raised and then dismissed the possibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turning over his entire chemical weapons stock as a way to deter possible American military strikes. Within a matter of hours, both Assad and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, had tentatively endorsed the idea. We’ll have to see what emerges, but this is a positive development.

Which is to say, it’s a positive development in the short term. I’m cautiously optimistic that Assad, Putin and the Obama administration can reach a bargain that staves off American military intervention in exchange for securing Syria’s chemical weapons. (Ideally, Syrian chemical and suspected biological weapons will be identified, secured and ultimately destroyed.)

Having fewer deployable weapons of mass destruction loose in the world — or in the hands of despotic or untrustworthy regimes — is obviously a very good thing. Averting American missile or bomb strikes that had a high potential of killing innocent civilians and a low potential of deterring future WMD use is also a very good thing. Preventing some kind of boots-on-the-ground intervention, and all the bloody consequences that are inextricably linked to those actions, is even better.

If Assad were to retain his chemical weapons, the best case is simply that nothing happens — the weapons see no further use. But plenty of much direr scenarios could easily unspool if Syria retains its WMDs. Perhaps Assad would gas more civilians. Or al Qaeda, which has loyalists among the rebel fighters, might capture his chemical and possibly biological weapons and attempt to use them, either in Syria or abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

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