Monday, 16 September 2013

SYRIA: U.S.-RUSSIA deal-Coercive-Diplomacy

With the Russian proposal for Bashar al-Assad to allow the international community to take control of his chemical weapons stockpile, the Obama administration happily claimed that coercive diplomacy worked. The details of such transfer remain complicated, and it’s certainly possible that ultimately there will be no actual transit of the weapons.

The plan will require pretty serious heavy lifting. It will require the Syrian government opening itself up, as far as its chemical arsenal is concerned, to the international community, because the US only knows the location of just 19 of the 42 suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria. It will require teams of inspectors to come to Syria and it would require that team to be supported by a peacekeeping force, a sizeable one.

It will require a ceasefire in the areas where the chemical weapons are stored, and an agreement between the Syrian government and the international community, whether the UN or the Organisation for Chemical Weapons, and thus an implicit recognition of the Assad regime as the government or authority in Syria.

It will require a serious re-launch of the political process in Syria. So it's a very tall order. But working along that path is the best option that we have. Military strikes would be a very bad option for everyone involved, except maybe for the anti-Western extremist forces in Syria and the Middle East more broadly, who would thrive in the wake of US strikes in Syria.

Many analysts voice scepticism about Russia's offer of placing Syrian chemical weapons under the control of the United Nations. Because Russia has given Syria most of their weapons. And it is not clear that Russia itself has fully complied with all their obligations with respect to chemical weapons. Therefore, a question would be: Might it possibly amount to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop?

This scepticism can be justified by the fact that previous UN weapons agreements, such as those made with Iraq and Iran, which could serve as a basis for a Syrian deal, they haven't exactly been great success stories.

Were this deal to hold, it would largely fulfill two U.S. objectives: preventing another chemical attack by the Assad regime, and reinforcing the norm against chemical weapons use. However, the Syria's civil war would not stop, leading many analysts to wonder whether this incident represents an example of successful coercion, or if Putin played the Obama administration for fools.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
World Affairs Analyst

Photo-Credit: Reuters-US President Barack Obama & Russia President Vladimir Putin