CBS News’ report misses one crucial question: Did John Kerry bring another reset button? Nothing says seriousness to Sergei Lavrov like an American Secretary of State handing him a big red button labeled “Reset” — er, “Overcharge”:
Actually, we’re not even to the point of testing actual plans. We’re only there to discuss “concepts,” one diplomat told CBS:
Intense negotiations are under way at the United Nations about the content of an agreement on Syria, and when the five permanent members of the Security Council (the U.S., U.K, France, China, Russia) sat down Wednesday, they were “walking on eggshells,” a diplomat involved in the meetings said.
“We are not going line-by-line” through the draft resolution floated by the French and outlined by their foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, the diplomat said. “We were discussing concepts, because the fundamentals have been agreed to, but how and if we get there is still very shaky.”
One “concept” on which the Russians insist is that the US renounce military strikes, an ultimatum demanded by Vladimir Putin himself after seeing the initial French draft, which he rejected. Another — which is new, or at least hasn’t been covered by the American media to the same extent — is that we stop arming the Syrian rebels. That might make sense, given who the rebels largely are, but it also makes sense from a standpoint of UN inspections. If we plan to be involved with the inspection process, which one would assume we would in order to ensure its actual success, then we can hardly expect Syria to cooperate while we’re running arms to its enemies.
ABC reports that Kerry wants this to be a “deep dive” and not just a diplomatic nicety:
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here today to weigh a potential deal on Syria’s chemical weapons. He’ll hold two, maybe even three, days of talks with his Russian counterpart on exactly how they might rid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of his formidable stockpile.
U.S. officials insist this will be more than some high-level diplomatic meeting. Both sides are bringing a large team of experts and analysts who will hammer out exactly how the unspecified proposal would be carried out.
It will be a deep dive, with intelligence officials from both sides comparing notes about the size, scope and location of Assad’s chemical weapons depots. They’ll talk about how this work can be carried out in a war zone, what to do with precursor chemicals and delivery systems like rockets, and perhaps, most importantly, how to monitor and verify the work that is being done.
The Americans seem cautiously optimistic.
“It is doable, but difficult and complicated,” one official told reporters on the way to Geneva.
Left unasked is why the Obama administration didn’t try this first — either last month, or last year. Call this a deep dive from the shallow end of the pool.
Bashar al-Assad announced today that he’s ready to surrender control of his chemical weapons, but only under Russian management of the process:
Mr Assad told Rossiya 24, the state-run news channel: “Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision.”
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier outlined three main phases of Moscow’s proposal:
- Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons
- Syria reveals where its chemical weapons are stored and gives details of its programme
- Experts decide on the specific measures to be taken
Mr Lavrov, completing a visit to Kazakhstan, said: “I am sure that there is a chance for peace in Syria. We cannot let it slip away.”
He did not mention the destruction of the weapons, which is thought to be a sticking point in Moscow’s negotiations with Damascus.
CBS even holds out hope for that long-fabled, Obama-driven US-Russian “reset”:
Both Mr. Obama and Putin will send their messages to Geneva. If the negotiations find common ground, a program will begin to secure Syria’s chemical weapons. And if the U.S.- Russia “reset” finally begins, the upside could be a Geneva meeting on a transition in Syria, overall.
Don’t stop believin’ ….