But … it is a game. That’s the whole point. If the White House takes this disarmament charade seriously at the UN with demands that Assad turn over his arsenal expeditiously and verifiably, it’s going to put Obama right back in the war box the way Ryan Lizza described this morning. Russia’s proposal is attractive to him because it’s a charade, because it can be slow-walked and fudged at the UN while Congress and the American public gradually forget about Syria. To turn this from kabuki into a semi-serious process defeats the purpose.
Granted, Kerry has no choice but to talk tough while people are still paying attention, but it sounds like they mean business on compliance. Which, as I say, means more headaches for O to come, not less.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is rejecting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s suggestion Thursday that he begin submitting data on his chemical weapons arsenal one month after signing an international chemical weapons ban.
Speaking at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kerry noted that Assad said a 30-day lead time would be standard.
“There is nothing standard about this process,” Kerry said, because Assad has used his chemical weapons.
“The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”
Empty rhetoric? Maybe not:
American officials said they were planning a series of early tests to determine if the Russian government, and, more important, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, were serious about accepting international control of Syria’s huge chemical arsenal…
One test of Mr. Assad’s sincerity will be the willingness of Russia and Syria to accept “a rapid beginning to international control” that would preclude the Assad government from gaining access to chemical weapons or using them, said a senior State Department official who was traveling on Mr. Kerry’s plane…
“There are some specific things that we can ask for, and see if they get delivered very quickly, that will give us an early sense of whether there is reality here or not,” said the State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under department protocols.
If Assad tells them to get lost, then what? O’s surely not going back to Congress; proof that Syria’s disarmament is a sham might win him some extra votes, but he’s in such a deep hole with both Democrats and Republicans that he might still not get to 218. I think the plan, such as it is, is to bomb Assad straightaway if he doesn’t comply, without congressional approval, on the theory that the public will be a little more tolerant of a new war if it looks like Assad and Putin are jerking the UN around. That would also explain the oddly belligerent tone to Obama’s speech on Tuesday night even though, ostensibly, it was all about how we *shouldn’t* attack right now. Maybe he’s concluded that the only way to get back some credibility is to hit Assad anyway, and the UN stuff is just a prelude designed to build a bit of extra moral authority for doing so. The fact that he tried a last resort to diplomacy and it went nowhere because Assad’s a liar will be presented as a game-changing fact by his spin team which requires an immediate response by the commander-in-chief, without waiting for approval from Congress.
Then again, pay attention to what Kerry says at the very end here about how he thinks there’s a way for Assad to disarm even in the middle of a civil war. Er, no, there isn’t, not without either a ceasefire or lots and lots of boots on the ground, neither of which is happening. Either he has some cockamamie plan for handling WMD to offer Assad which he knows won’t work, which means an attack is coming down the road, or he’s going to pretend that the plan is working and then look the other way when it fails, which would mean O’s still intending to play along with this charade. Can’t wait to find out which it is.