To no one’s shock, Syria has leaped at the chance to have Russia defuse the standoff with the US … to the benefit of the regime and its chief benefactor. After all, a thumb in the eye doesn’t do any good until it makes full contact:
Syria said Tuesday it has accepted Russia’s proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative.”
His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.
Of course Bashar al-Assad welcomes the Russian proposal to secure Syrian chemical weapons. Why wouldn’t he? He gets his patron as his overseer, undermines Barack Obama’s credibility in the region even more, and gets to go back to his civil war with less chance of any significant international intervention against his regime.
Not everyone in the neighborhood is delighted by this turn of events. Israeli politicians noted another benefit for Assad in this diplomatic coup from Moscow, which is the gift of time:
Senior Israeli politicians have voiced skepticism about Russia’s proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control.
Avigdor Lieberman, who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that Syria could use the proposal to “buy time.”
He says Syrian President Bashar “Assad is winning time and lots of it.”
Lieberman’s a hawk, but he’s not alone. Shimon Peres isn’t any more impressed with the idea than Lieberman:
President Shimon Peres warned on Monday that negotiations over a weapons transfer would be “tough” and that Syria is “not trustworthy.”
Thanks to the epic failure of the Obama administration, Assad will end up with Russia brokering the transfer, which makes this only slightly more trustworthy than Assad claiming he doesn’t have the weapons on his own. Don’t expect Israel to change its calculus vis-a-vis the threat from Assad on the basis of this settlement, in other words. However, at worst it just extends the status quo we already had — Assad’s chemical-weapons stores have been well known for a very long time — and contains the Syrian civil war mostly within the borders of Syria. That gives everyone else more time, too.