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Polityka, Poland

Syria Will Give Up Chemical Weapons?
Impossible. A Gift from Russia

By Łukasz Wójcik

Translated By Natalia Suta

10 September 2013

Edited by Robert O’Connor

Poland - Polityka - Original Article (Polish)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is either a very talented actor or shouldn’t be holding the position.

On Sept. 9, when Barack Obama did everything he could to persuade congressmen into authorizing a penal attack against Syria, Kerry tried to convince journalists it was going to be an “unbelievably insignificant” attack, so there shouldn’t be any concerns that America would get involved in the war with Syria. However, when asked if Assad’s regime could do anything to avoid the attack, he said: “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons.”

You say you have. A few hours later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Damascus had accepted Moscow’s proposal and, by collective decision-making, will give up its chemical weapons to Russia. Kerry explained later on that his proposal was a rhetorical procedure and that it is too late for an agreement with Damascus. Russia’s idea was, however, taken up by other world leaders as well as Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations. He announced that his organization is willing to send inspectors to monitor transfers of chemical weapons in Syria. At the end of the day, Obama was left with no other choice; he admitted himself that the solution is interesting. According to one of the unofficial versions, Kerry put the idea forward deliberately, as the matter had been discussed by America and Russia for a long time. However, taking into consideration the recent difficulty with strategic thinking at the White House, Kerry might have simply had a worse day.

The U.S. president had a serious problem. It would be difficult for him to cancel the plan to punish Assad’s regime for the use of chemical weapons near Damascus on Aug. 21. In this case, he risked losing the international credibility of America. Unforeseen circumstances, mainly British withdrawal from the attack, probably forced him to pass the matter to Congress to win stronger support for the invasion. Yet, the chances for such an approval have been falling day by day. On Sept. 9, it was almost certain that the U.S. House of Representatives will not back up the president; in the Senate, controlled by Democrats, a situation didn't look promising, either. This is why the Russian’s proposal on Syria giving up chemical weapons is like a premature birthday present for Obama — it could credibly explain why the U.S. is canceling the attack, which it obviously doesn't feel like carrying out.

However, gifts from Russia in international politics happen very rarely. In this situation Moscow put itself in the position of a ball handler, an arbitrator. Not only did Russia emphasize its international significance, but it also protected its Syrian ally from the attack. On that occasion, Moscow once again postponed a direct clash between American and Russian military technology, which would not come off well for the latter. Meanwhile, potential buyers for the Russian surface-to-air missile system S-300 are watching. Even though Americans are perfectly aware that Russia is not exclusively concerned about world peace, they cannot refuse the proposal to not be seen as the bad ones.

Putting aside all those axels, flips and pirouettes, the idea which slipped out of Kerry's mouth and which was taken up by Russia is impossible. In order to carry out an effective control of the supplies of chemical weapons in Assad's possession, a contingent of the army would have to go to Syria first to protect inspectors and then to secure exporting the weapon from Syria, as there is every possibility that Assad wouldn't give up all the supplies willingly. Besides, how can you safely drive out such a weapon from a country which is engaged in a civil war? One of the experienced inspectors from the U.N. said on Tuesday that the civil war would first have to come to an end if Russia’s plan is to succeed.



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