The American-Russian Agreement: Washington and Moscow Come Together at the Expense of the Syrian People

The Americans and Russians reached an agreement Saturday which gives Damascus one week to present a list of chemical weapons. This turn of events buries the possibility of military intervention in Syria once and for all. For Jean-Pierre Filiu, a specialist in the Arab world, this solution signifies the abandonment of the Syrian people.

The Kerry-Lavrov agreement reached in Geneva dispels the image of a “cold war” in which Washington’s followers and Moscow’s allies are in opposition on the subject of Syria. It is henceforth clear that the United States and Russia share the same desire to end the Syrian revolution by validating Bashar al-Assad as the international community’s sole interlocutor.

Washington and Moscow are also united in their denial of the reality on the ground in Syria, preferring instead to make complex arrangements from thousands of kilometers away.

The Desertion of the Syrian Population

Vladimir Putin has at least declared unconditional support for the dictator of Damascus. Barack Obama is more indecisive, but also more perverse in his desertion of the Syrian population.

An agreement limited explicitly to chemical weapons is like a license for Bashar al-Assad to use missiles, planes, tanks and artillery against his citizens. The Syrian regime has already increased conventional bombardments on every front since it was assured to be spared in the short term from Western strikes.

The Syrian people did not take to the streets in the spring of 2011 to demand the international supervision of chemical weapons. It peacefully demonstrated en masse to demand justice and liberty. Obama’s United States chose to abandon it without a way to defend itself.

Worse than that, the U.S. passed an agreement with Moscow in June 2012 reaffirming Bashar al-Assad as the Syrian head of state, pushing the idea of a transition back to the indefinite horizon.

A Still-Born Agreement

This agreement was already shown to be dead since its inception due to the absence of a clear mechanism to place pressure on the Syrian dictator, who seeks above all to buy time and refuses to concede the least bit of his absolute power. One fears that the same will occur with this second agreement in Geneva.

But, the essential goal for Bashar al-Assad is to halt the international mobilization that his chemical massacre of Aug. 21, 2013 provoked.

By drawing the “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in August 2012, Barack Obama hoped that the Syrian despot would be careful, even during the worst wave of repression, not to cross this famous “red line.” We know that this has not been the case. Periodic violations of this “red line” have multiplied since last winter, before the massive offensive of Aug. 21, 2013.

Obama, always entrenched in his refusal to intervene, took refuge behind Congress to justify his passivity. He can be thankful to Putin for having offered him a diplomatic way out. Let’s be clear about Syria. There is no confrontation, even with kid gloves, between Washington and Moscow, but rather a role-playing game in which the Syrians pay an enormous price.

Syria Will Continue To Be Destroyed

The historian in me cannot help but be struck by the strangling of Syria in 2013, buried under the trauma left by the calamitous management of Iraq in 2003. We can see it in the in the public debate when America’s recent wars come up; America is happy not to engage in another.

With the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, both countries have artificially created a focus of international polarization and tension, which will produce a repetition of the same crises as the hunt for “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq before 2003.

At that time, the Syrian people will continue to be massacred, Syria will continue to be destroyed and hatred will be born out of so much suffering and ruin.

Bashar al-Assad will benefit in the short term from the Kerry-Lavrov agreement. But, the big winner of this new sequence of Syrian tragedy will no doubt be the jihadis. Their discourse on the duplicity of the West, on the illusion of human rights, even on the alliance between Washington and Moscow against Islam, will be difficult to fight against, in Syria or beyond.

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