Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Syrian Deal?

Neo-Conservative, Conservative, and liberal interventionist commentators have been greeting the negotiations with Russia with Cold War attitudes. They act as if Obama traded in a sure chance to topple the Assad regime or to effectively deter any use of chemical weapons for a questionable joint effort with a former-KGB officer. Yes, Putin is a very shady character. But Putin does have some incentive to actually deliver. If he managed to disarm Assad of most of his chemical weapons he would gain status for himself internationally. He would gain Obama's gratitude as well as that of Assad and Iran. This is not the first time the United States has cooperated in the Mideast with the Russians. In the Soviet era the two superpowers co-hosted two peace conferences on the Arab-Israeli conflict, one in December 1973 and one in October 1991. The first was used by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to set up his shuttle diplomacy in the region the following year that moved Egypt from the Soviet camp to the American camp. But the Soviets were so eager for recognition of their status as a superpower from Washington that they did not notice what was happening. The second was taking place as the Soviet Union was unraveling and the Soviet diplomats looked like they had other things on their mind.

Remember a week ago (as Harold Wilson once said, "A week is a long time in politics.") that Obama had just lost Britain as a partner in the Western strike against Syria and things did not look much rosier for Obama in the House than they had for Cameron in the House of Commons. So Obama traded the uncertainty of a vote in the House for the uncertainty of a negotiation with the Soviets and Assad. Putin could still stiff-arm Obama. But a deal with Putin could give a rationale for a strike that Obama lacked before--as a stick to ensure that Assad carried out his part of the deal. Here David Rothkopf attributes the deal to the ambivalent character of Obama and the desire to make peace of John Kerry.

It has now been reported that Secretary Kerry has said that the UN will be responsible for ensuring compliance with any deal reached.  This effectively means that it will be compliance on the honor system as Russia retains its veto in the UN Security Council and will not hesitate to use it to protect Assad, if that is what Putin desires.

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