Surreal doesn’t quite describe yesterday’s goings on with Syria, the United States, and, apparently, the international community’s new white knight: Russia. In short, as President Obama appeared on six different television shows to make his case for military action against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry, in a bout of diplomatic improv, posited that were the Assad regime to yield the contents of its chemical weapons program to international monitors, it could avoid an American strike. That’s when things got kooky.
Well, things initially got kooky once Kerry said that any U.S. attack against Syria would be “unbelievably small,” but then things really got bizarre when some Syrian officials, goaded by their Russian allies, seemed to endorse the plan, giving it some patina of legitimacy.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said early Monday that Syria could avoid an attack by putting its chemical weapons in the hands of monitors and agreeing to ultimately eliminate its massive arsenal of poison gas. It was an idea that was quickly praised by top officials in Syria and some lawmakers in the United States.
“It’s possible,” Mr. Obama said on CNN of the Russian proposal, “if it’s real.”
Over at Bloomberg, Jeffrey Goldberg had some questions about the development from the technical to the strategic to the philosophical. Here are a few, but read the rest:
6. How do you possibly verify that Assad has given up all of his chemical weapons? The Syrian regime possesses hundreds of tons of these munitions.
7. Does Syria get to keep its biological weapons under this still nonexistent deal?
8. If the U.S. gives up the idea of an attack, would the remaining moderate rebels, so dispirited, start moving toward the al-Qaeda column?
9. How do you secure and transport all of these chemical-weapons components in the midst of a horrifically violent civil war?
Most importantly, does Assad just go back to killing willy nilly without chemical weapons?
The whole development may be for naught anyhow. Despite his stated preference for embracing the diplomatic track, President Obama addressing the entire American media (he’ll speak to the American people tonight) pledged to keep “the pedal to the metal” on a congressional resolution to strike Syria.
As he was in the midst of his media lap, the not-so-long and not-so-awaited interview between Charlie Rose and the Syrian dictator himself Bashar Assad was aired. Amid the manipulative flush of talking points made by Assad, he warned of “repercussions” if America were to strike Syrian installations. President Obama responded to the threat in a later interview.
“Well, actually, we know what Assad’s capabilities are, and, you know, Mr. Assad’s are significant compared to a bunch of opposition leaders, many of whom are not professional fighters,” the president said Monday evening. “They’re significant relative to over 400 children that were gassed. They’re not significant relative to the U.S. military.”
[Drops microphone. Exits.]