NATO chief: Say, this chemical-weapons deal could strengthen Assad

posted at 10:41 am on September 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The deal that will supposedly disarm the Syrian army of its chemical weapons and leaves Bashar al-Assad in power to conduct it will inevitably strengthen his position, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tells McClatchy in an exclusive interview.  The process will take months, if not years, and depends on Assad both controlling the weapons and cooperating with the UN inspection regime for as long as it takes to complete:

The head of NATO said Wednesday that the U.S. threat of a military strike had forced Syria to agree to surrender its chemical weapons and the potential use of force must remain to help compel compliance with its agreement to disarm.

But he added that a United Nations inspection program to find, secure, and move or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile could help solidify President Bashar Assad’s grip on power because such a program would require his assistance and probably take many months to complete.

No kidding! Don’t think that this isn’t by design, either.  The deal was crafted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after an off-hand comment by Secretary of State John Kerry gave them the opening to eclipse the US on the chemical-weapons crisis in Syria.  The Russians have a big interest in keeping Assad in power, both for economic reasons and for their strategic imperatives of tamping down radical Islamist fervor in the region.  In that sense, Libya was a flat-out disaster (that the West still won’t admit), and Syria was on its way to the same conclusion until Vladimir Putin and Lavrov outplayed Kerry and Barack Obama.

Left unsaid, of course, is the incentives this sets up and their implications for compliance.  Assad becomes essential to everyone during the disarmament process, but expendable to the West once it finishes.  What incentive does Assad have to expedite the process, or complete it at all? What incentives do Putin and Lavrov have in pushing Assad along? The threat of Western force, perhaps, but Obama showed that to be a pretty empty threat, and an ill-advised one at that.

And that’s hardly the only ill-advised move made by the US.  Rasmussen disagrees with Obama and John McCain that a moderate core of the Syrian rebellion controls the fight, or can control the outcome later — and worries that we’re arming the Islamist extremists instead:

“To be very open and frank, it is a fact that the opposition counts extremists and terrorist groups, and I don’t shy away from using the phrase ‘terrorist groups,’ ” Rasmussen said. “Of course, it is weakening the opposition.”

The rise of Syrian fighters from al Qaida-affiliated groups and other radical movements makes it more difficult for Western nations to provide arms and other assistance to the Syrian rebels, Rasmussen said.

“Many nations are reluctant to provide particular weapons in a situation where we can’t be sure those weapons won’t fall into the wrong hands,” he said.

The Washington Post reports today on the developments I noted yesterday, in which the largest Syrian rebels groups have declared their allegiance to an Islamist outcome:

American hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s fractious rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed opposition coalition and announced the formation of a new alliance dedicated to creating an Islamic state.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group, which will further complicate fledgling U.S. efforts to provide lethal aid to “moderate” rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al-Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al-Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the “Islamist Alliance,” claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Supreme Military Council and the chief conduit for U.S. aid to the rebels, cut short a visit to Paris after the announcement of the alliance overnight Tuesday and will head to Syria on Thursday to attempt to persuade the factions to reconsider, according to the council’s spokesman, Louay al-Mokdad.

They’re not abandoning Idriss, the rebel groups say, but only the Syrian National Coalition, which the US insists has to represent the rebels in peace talks.  However, Idriss isn’t going back to Syria to get the groups to drop their allegiance to the radical Islamist cause, but just to stop talking about it while he continues to plead for Western support.  This is the nature of the Islamist rebellion in Syria and has been for quite a long time — which is a big reason why Russia made sure to make Assad the indispensable man in Syria.


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NATO Chief = Captain Obvious

myiq2xu on September 26, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Putin, the only adult in the room with any sense…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Stay out of it and let ‘em kill each other.

GarandFan on September 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Wow! this NATO guy must be biting from the Apple that has
Worms in it!! He should just listen to Obama! Doesn’t he know
that Obama has the Delicious Apples!!

ToddPA on September 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM

I’m no diplomacy expert, but … duh.

/Neville Chamberlain isn’t just a reference in a Ted Cruz quasi-filibuster

Paul-Cincy on September 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Rasmussen disagrees with Obama and John McCain that a moderate core of the Syrian rebellion controls the fight, or can control the outcome later — and worries that we’re arming the Islamist extremists instead

You mean they are not Jeffersonian democrats going door-to-door asking neighbors if they’ve come to know democracy?

Seriously, McCain needs to be muzzled. He is becoming increasingly insane. IMO PTSD has finally become evident. It was there all along but with age and arrogance he has been less able to hide it the last couple years. There isn’t a country he doesn’t want to bomb or invade. Dissent by fellow Republicans result in spiteful rants. The veneer of civility is less evident than the bitter mean bully that has always lurked beneath. He needs to be put in a home.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Putin, the only adult in the room with any sense…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM

In a room full of 5 year olds the 2nd grader is king…

Gingotts on September 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Gingotts on September 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

good one…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Putin is playing chess.

Obama, not knowing the object of the game, or even how the pieces move, is playing with the pieces as if they were toys. Sure, he probably has some experienced advisors, who he didn’t consult when he changed course and decided to check with Congress on the cruise missile strike.

/Obama: can I go play golf now?

Paul-Cincy on September 26, 2013 at 10:58 AM

“Many nations are reluctant to provide particular weapons in a situation where we can’t be sure those weapons won’t fall into the wrong hands,” he said.

Oh, you mean like Fast & Furious…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Obama, not knowing the object of the game, or even how the pieces move, is playing with the pieces as if they were toys.

Paul-Cincy on September 26, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Doesn’t matter so long as he keeps his style points for doing so.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 11:01 AM

“Many nations are reluctant to provide particular weapons in a situation where we can’t be sure those weapons won’t fall into the wrong hands,” he said.

Oh, you mean like Fast & Furious…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

NO! Not like Fast and Furious. The thin-skinned rat and Eric Holder WAS CERTAIN that the F&F weapons would fall into the wrong hands. That was by design.

Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 11:04 AM

The thin-skinned rat and Eric Holder WAS CERTAIN that the F&F weapons would fall into the wrong hands. That was by design. Happy Nomad on September 26, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Then for their purposes, those would have been the right hands, right?

You often say the opposite of what you apparently mean.

Akzed on September 26, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Keeping Assad around a while longer will certainly work out better for Syria and the region. After all…that “rebel alliance” the one we are training and giving arms to? Well, they’ve seen the writing on the wall, ands have made their choice.

Alliance of rebel groups calls for an Islamist Syria, not a U.S.-backed democracy.

Team Obama jumped the gun in Egypt.

Lavrov (and Putin) prevented Obama from doing the same in Syria.

coldwarrior on September 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Barry O knew about the rebel intentions in Syria…he was backing the Muslim Brotherhood all the way.

Name one Middle Eastern country that is better off since Obama has been President.

Is this the first time in the history of the US where we have a President backing the wrong side? (Libya, Egypt, Syria…)

albill on September 26, 2013 at 11:36 AM

However, Idriss isn’t going back to Syria to get the groups to drop their allegiance to the radical Islamist cause, but just to stop talking about it while he continues to plead for Western support.

Indeed.

AesopFan on September 26, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Today’s NATO chiefs are slow.

Schadenfreude on September 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Putin, the only adult in the room with any sense…

PatriotRider on September 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Self-interest (as in russia’s) rather, but sure, that qualifies as ‘sense’ from their perspective…wish we had a leader that has America’s interests at heart too and who’s not a pathetic amateur, but seems like those times are gone, the moochers are in charge now and decide the fate of this country :(..we’re going to end up like the UK, a once superpower that has grownlargely irrelevant….

jimver on September 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM

So only the islamists are getting money and weapons and they are taking control from any moderates? Really Ed?? Gee I wonder why???

philrat on September 26, 2013 at 5:15 PM