Sunday 15 September 2013

McCain smells a rat in Syria deal

Senators John McCain (left) and Lindsey Graham Saturday
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Saturday released the following statement on the U.S.-Russian agreement on Syria:

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"What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement – they see it as an act of provocative weakness on America's part. We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon.

"Without a UN Security Council Resolution under Chapter 7 authority, which threatens the use of force for non-compliance by the Assad regime, this framework agreement is meaningless. Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world using every trick in Saddam Hussein's playbook. It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama Administration is being led into it by Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin.

"What's worse, this agreement does nothing to resolve the real problem in Syria, which is the underlying conflict that has killed 110,000 people, driven millions from their homes, destabilized our friends and allies in the region, emboldened Iran and its terrorist proxies, and become a safe haven for thousands of al-Qaeda affiliated extremists. Is the message of this agreement that Assad is now our negotiating partner, and that he can go on slaughtering innocent civilians and destabilizing the Middle East using every tool of warfare, so long as he does not use chemical weapons? That is morally and strategically indefensible.

"The only way this underlying conflict can be brought to a decent end is by significantly increasing our support to moderate opposition forces in Syria. We must strengthen their ability to degrade Assad's military advantage, change the momentum on the battlefield, and thereby create real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict."

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Putin checkmates Obama over Syria

Vladimir Putin is a black belt and a Master of Sports in Judo.

Political analyst Amine Kamourieh, writing today for the independent Beirut daily an-Nahar, says the Russian president is also an excellent hunter and marksman. And he just proved to be an accomplished acrobat who can execute a full back somersault at the last minute to avoid falling into an abyss.

Kamourieh continues:

Putin can be a Machiavellian diplomat at a whim and is always prepared to hide his deadly iron fist in a velvet glove. His attributes, love of the spotlight and innumerable qualities while in office made him a media superstar on the world stage.

In the Syria crisis, Russia's new tsar showed a penchant for global leadership.

Yesterday, he proved to be a Chess Grandmaster. With one spectacular move, his "Rook" checkmated America's "Black King" that has been threatening Syria.

Hours earlier, a potential military strike from U.S. forces was hanging over Syria.

Talk was not so much about the strike's timing as about its sequels.

The Russian Grandmaster changed all this with an airtight proposal. 

If the strike on Syria is to deter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using his chemical arsenal, better put Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and spare Syria and the rest of the world the evils of war and its likely catastrophic aftermath.

The proposal puts U.S. plans for a strike against Syria on hold.

Putin's smart suggestion helps U.S. President Barack Obama and Assad climb down the high tree. By so doing, the Russian president avoided a head on clash between Moscow and Washington over Syria and let his Syrian ally off the hook while denying Damascus the opportunity of claiming "victory."

By yielding control of its chemical weapons, which it invariably described as a "strategic" asset in a face-off with nuclear Israel, the Syrian regime would be effectively turning tail on what it usually described as a "sovereign" issue. The Syrian regime would at the same time be implicitly owning up to (chemical weapons) violations.

Putin's plan also helps Obama save face after talking himself into a corner on intervention in Syria and finding it hard to muster the support of Congress, the American public and U.S. allies for action against Assad forces.

The plan for international control of Syrian chemical weapons steals Obama's thunder. If adopted and implemented, it would crown Putin's move as one of the greatest since the days of the Russian Grandmasters.

Monday 9 September 2013