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The Endgame in Syria
Surprise! Assad Still Has Chemical Weapons

One year after the Obama Administration celebrated its singular Middle East achievement of forcing Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus to give up its chemical weapons, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the regime was still in possession of various weaponized chemicals beyond the chlorine gas it has used on civilians in recent months. (Don’t look now, but our own Adam Garfinkle repeatedly told you so.)

Amazingly enough, having concluded that President Obama’s threats about bombing were hollow, it appears that Assad did not fully comply with his commitments.

This won’t help the Obama Administration on Capitol Hill as it tries to sell the Iran agreement. Some of the parallels to what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused on at the first Iran hearing yesterday are uncanny. Consider the following, from The Wall Street Journal

Because the regime was responsible for providing security, it had an effective veto over inspectors’ movements. The team decided it couldn’t afford to antagonize its hosts, explains one of the inspectors, or it “would lose all access to all sites.” And the inspectors decided they couldn’t visit some sites in contested areas, fearing rebels would attack them.

Under the terms of their deployment, the inspectors had access only to sites that the Assad regime had declared were part of its chemical-weapons program. The U.S. and other powers had the right to demand access to undeclared sites if they had evidence they were part of the chemical-weapons program. But that right was never exercised, in part, inspectors and Western officials say, because their governments didn’t want a standoff with the regime.

And the Russians appear to have used their weight to impede accusatory reports, as well.

If Assad, an embattled ruler of a small state with his back to the wall, can thumb his nose at the U.S. on a WMD deal, what will Congress think are the chances that the mullahs in Tehran will abide by their accord? That we’ll be able to find and confirm evidence of such cheating, particularly in a timely manner? Or that the administration will take the necessary action to enforce the deal if cheating is found?

As Walter Russell Mead wrote this morning, it’s now past time to pivot to a hard line on Syria—which action is not only overdue in its own right, but would also go far to balance Sunni concerns vis-a-vis the Iran deal and hence make it stick. If anyone thinks we need yet another reason to get rid of Assad, the Journal‘s report this morning seems suitable to us.

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  • JR

    OK, if this post doesn’t bring Dan Greene back, I don’t know what will.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I thought you had to say his name three times to bring him back…

    • Ellen

      Please, spare us. Just looking at John Kerry’s dunce-like expression on the front pages of our major media (after being told that the US was just fleeced in the Iran negotiations) is enough dumbness to last a decade.

      Mind you, the Democratic Party for years accused the Republicans of being the “dumb party.” No one surpasses Kerry in that department. Even Sarah Palin would have done a much better job negotiating with the Iranians than he did.

      • JR

        Kerry did what his boss, Barack Hussein Obama, told him to do. I don’t blame Kerry one bit.

        • Dale Fayda

          I do. If Kerry was a principled man and was ever actually in opposition to this “idiotic idiocy” of an agreement, he could have resigned, like Cyrus Vance did over the botched Iranian hostage rescue attempt.

          Kerry is as much a narcissistic ponce as is his boss and he was all in on this 100% from the start. Kerry’s earnest cretinism reminds of nothing more than that of Neville Chamberlain’s.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Not entirely fair to Chamberlain, who genuinely loved his country. I rather doubt that the same can be said of either Obama or Kerry.

          • JR

            Sorry, but I have to disagree. Obama has been focused on this deal since day one. This is his foreign policy legacy, much like Obamacare is his domestic legacy. I think both are horrible policies and both will be shown to be such sooner rather than later.
            John Kerry is a trivia item, nothing more. Is he stupid, venal, clueless, hamstrung, master strategist? I have no idea. Ultimately it does’t matter.

  • Anthony

    “The United States see Iran as aligned with American interests for the moment, since both countries oppose the Islamic State….”

    “Al Assad is no friend to Israelis, but a weak Al Assad is better than a strong Islamic State rule…Israel must favor Al Assad and that aligns them on some level with Iran, even as Israel works with Sunni players like Saudi Arabia to contain Iranian militant proxies.” Ironies certainly do abound:

    • JR

      Leaders of Iran certainly don’t seem to think that their interests are aligned with America’s.

      • Anthony

        I can’t say but Friedman’s Stratfor essay conveys much. Thanks.

        • JR

          I’m sure that Barack Obama thinks that US and Iran interests’ are aligned. But it takes two to tango. The Supreme Leader of Iran stated a few days ago that the way he sees the world Iran’s interests are diametrically opposed to US’ interests. Why would regime whose entire reason for existence is to oppose Great Satan all of a sudden become an ally?

          • Anthony

            Opinions/queries are ubiquitous at this geopolitical moment – I refrain and defer to more experienced observers/practitioners. It’s been thought provoking again thanks.

          • JR

            Same to you. I agree 100% about the ubiquitous nature of opinions these days. You know what they say. Opinions are like arseholz, everyone has one.

          • f1b0nacc1

            And when referring to commenter you replied to…even arseholz have arseholz

          • JR

            I think you can find a place where you can agree to disagree. I appreciate hearing other opinions because practical experience has shown me that the way I think the world works are not necessarily how the world works. Anthony’s Buddha like demeanor doesn’t grate me.

          • f1b0nacc1

            we will have to agree to disagree (grin)

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