Al-Assad’s foreign minister agrees to Russia’s proposal for international control of [Syria’s] chemical weapons. Is this development good or bad?

Pros: Room for Negotiations

It is possibly thanks to the question of a British reporter that there is finally movement on the Syria question. If he hadn’t asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry whether Syria’s President al-Assad could still do something to prevent a U.S. military strike, Kerry would not have answered thus spontaneously.

Then Russia wouldn’t have been able to take up the suggestion and Syria wouldn’t have been able to welcome it. Collateral advantage of a press conference — that’s something.

What is new about the situation is that the Russian government is making constructive proposals for the first time and deviating from its position of simply stubbornly defending the al-Assad regime. With that, new lines of talks should open up.

Also new is that — if al-Assad keeps to his agreement — for the first time, the matter of the Syrian chemical weapons is really solution-oriented. Up to now all the back and forth about evidence and counterevidence has only been a means to an end: Those who basically rejected an intervention doubted the proof; those who were already for a military intervention considered it ironclad.

But neither opponents nor proponents of an intervention, nor advocates of the assertion that Syria’s military had deployed chemical weapons, nor those who held the rebels responsible for it, could clarify how their respectively preferred option would actually contain the danger that these weapons without a doubt pose for the Syrian population.

The new development lives up to what the U.S. has always said: There is no military solution for Syria. No, with the new development, the war is not over. But it finally opens possibilities to constructively involving all sides and especially Russia in the search for a solution. That is more than seemed conceivable just three days ago.

Bernd Pickert

Cons: The Killing Continues

The rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia will not deter the al-Assad regime from murdering. Unlike what many headlines now suggest, the paramount problem in Syria was and is not that 1,400 people were murdered in one night with poisonous gas, but instead that for two and a half years, conventional — that is, internationally accepted — weapons have been used against Syrians, in fact, daily.

Fourteen hundred deaths by poisonous gas are “only” the tip of the iceberg. However, they are now being stylized as the sole problem of the international community.

Accordingly, the pictures of the outwardly intact dead have hardly led to more attention to the situation in Syria. Instead, the world passionately discusses the dilemma in which Obama got tangled.

The U.S. is endangering its status as the last world power left in the 21st century! Now it’s important to watch out, otherwise the United States could inadvertently find itself on the same level as Russia and China again.

The threat now appears to be averted; Bashar al-Assad has officially agreed to place his arsenal of chemical weapons under international control. With that, many new rounds of negotiations are at the gate.

Meanwhile al-Assad’s army and the militias supporting it can continue to pursue the principle of scorched earth. Perhaps the pursuit will be even more undisturbed than before because his official concession allows al-Assad to once again act as an internationally recognized partner in discussions.

And Obama or even the toothless E.U. cannot start new diplomatic offensives so quickly. That would be much too risky.

Syrian activists summarize the situation thus on Facebook: “The West doesn’t like outwardly intact poison gas corpses; it wants to see blood.” The chances for that are good.

Ines Kappert