When he’s right, he’s right. Here’s Adam Garfinkle writing on September 30, 2013(!):
The Syrian regime needs only a small fraction of its chemical arsenal for any imaginable military purposes. Most of its stocks are old and of questionable potency; the only reason they’re still there is because it’s very expensive and dangerous to get rid of them. (We’re still getting rid of buried World War I-era stocks in Washington, DC, after all!) So even if (and it’s a very big “if”) the UN manages to get rid of 90 percent of Syria’s chemical stocks, the military significance of so doing will be zero. Note, too, that Syria’s cooperation with the OPCW so far is probably designed to give Syria the right to veto inspections of any site the regime has not “declared” in its manifest. The regime can declare 90 percent or more of the relevant sites and lose nothing in military terms. It even gains financially: Others will now pay to dispose of stuff that’s useless and dangerous, and the bill will be quite large—in the billions of dollars, very likely, if it ever comes to that.
Here is the news today, via the Times of London:
Inspectors have uncovered evidence that President Assad is still holding stocks of chemical weapons, almost two years after he promised to declare and destroy his entire stockpile after a devastating attack on a suburb of Damascus.Investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) discovered traces of chemicals used to make sarin gas and a nerve agent called VX at the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, a military facility where it is believed that Syria has previously developed chemical and biological weapons. The revelations come six months after the OPCW declared that all of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks had been removed from the country.Assad agreed to sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention after rockets filled with sarin gas were fired at the Ghouta neighbourhood in August 2013.
Amongst all the cheerleading that went on for the President’s “breakthrough” in getting Syria to sign on to the chemical weapons treaty, some of us could see clearly just what was going on. We encourage you to go read Adam’s piece and try to recall the heady mood at the time among Obama’s boosters. It certainly doesn’t make you feel confident in this administration’s perspicacity when it comes to negotiating with rivals who have a zero-sum view of the world.