My headline might sound like it comes straight from the Onion but it’s a faithful rendering of the opening sentence in this report from the New York Times — the latest acrobatics from an administration that didn’t need the UN until it discovered it couldn’t manage without the UN:
The White House and a bipartisan group of senators joined the international diplomatic momentum on Tuesday to avert an American military attack on Syria over its use of chemical munitions in that country’s civil war, responding positively to a Russian proposal aimed at securing and destroying those weapons.
The group of senators, including some of President Obama’s biggest supporters and critics, were drafting an alternative Congressional resolution that would give the United Nations time to take control of the Syrian government’s arsenal of the internationally banned weapons.
If the alternative resolution gained political traction, it could stave off a Congressional vote — and possibly a debilitating defeat for the Obama administration — in the coming days on a more immediate resolution authorizing the use of force, which a majority of Americans appear to oppose. That resolution, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, had been losing ground in both parties in recent days. Passage appeared increasingly difficult in the House and possibly the Senate as well.
At the same time, a senior White House official said Tuesday that administration officials — who just last week had been dismissing the United Nations as ineffective in the Syrian conflict — had begun working with American allies at the United Nations to further explore the viability of the Russian plan, in which the international community would take control of the Syrian weapons stockpile.
“Debilitating defeat”? Enough with the euphemisms. Debilitating = humiliating.
So, Obama drove into a ditch and the Russians were kind enough to haul him out. The French were only too eager to cut themselves loose from a doomed project. The Assad regime possibly sees that it will end up a net winner by agreeing to give up its chemical weapons. And the international community can rally under the flag of the UN proud to have defended the conscience of the world in upholding the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.
There’s just one small problem. There’s another party that will have to cooperate in this process — if it’s going to advance outside conference rooms — and that is the Syrian opposition.
Assad’s potential reward is that he can be confident that he will face no further threats from the U.S. — and perhaps he’ll gain even stronger support from Russia.
What’s in it for the opposition? Confidence that the next hundred thousand dead — just like the first hundred thousand — won’t be killed by chemical weapons?
A year ago U.S. officials were saying that 60,000 troops would be needed to secure Syria’s chemical weapons sites.
The United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention sixteen years ago and it still hasn’t completed the elimination of all its stockpiles.