A week after the UN resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons passed a Security Council vote, UN inspectors were in Damascus decommissioning their first batch of warheads, bombs and mixing labs. Sensing a PR opportunity, Assad gave an interview to Germany’s Spiegel, where though repeating his denial of ever having used chemical weapons, he struck what could pass for a conciliatory note, coming from a dictator:
“Whenever political decisions are made, mistakes happen. Everywhere in the world. We are all just people,” Assad said when asked in an interview with the Spiegel published on Sunday whether it was a mistake to respond with force to initially peaceful protests.“Personal mistakes by individuals happened. We all make mistakes. Even a president makes mistakes. But even if mistakes were made in the execution, our fundamental decisions were right,” he said.After the regime launched a brutal crackdown on the protesters the conflict rapidly escalated into a full-scale civil war in which 115,000 people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes.Asked if the armed opposition has sole responsibility for massacres, and if his forces were entirely innocent, Assad replied: “You can’t just absolutely say they carry 100 percent of the blame and we carry zero.”
Secretary Kerry, half a world away at the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia, took a moment to throw some praise Assad’s way:
“I think it’s extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the (UN) resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed.“I think it’s a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It’s a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning.”
The change of tone is pronounced. It seems as if the US may be backing away from “Assad must go” to “Assad must groom”—clean up his act a bit. The hunt seems to be on for a political solution in Syria. But nice words will only go so far. A workable solution will be hard to come by if only because the fighters on the ground are less compromise-minded than outsiders hoping for the best.In any case, we’ll know relations have truly warmed when Vogue runs another fawning profile on Assad’s wife.