Reuters reports: Washington and Moscow are taking applause for a possible diplomatic bargain to have Syria hand over its chemical arsenal.
U.S. President Barack Obama has put off a congressional vote on attacking Syria that he was likely to lose; Russia, having presented the idea, can now present itself as peacemaker after two years of Western criticism that it is shielding a tyrant.
Yet the ultimate victor could be President Bashar al-Assad. And, if past experience with international cooperation on Syria is repeated, the main losers may be other Syrians, of whom more than 100,000 have been killed and over 6 million made homeless since Assad cracked down on demands for democracy in 2011.
For all the talk of a deal that may ease a dilemma for Western leaders seeking a politically acceptable response to a poison gas attack on August 21, few Syrians see it as any solution to the greater crisis their nation faces.
Chemical weapons account for perhaps 2 percent of deaths in the civil war; in the three weeks since toxins killed some 1,400 people near Damascus, according to U.S. officials, conventional bombs and bullets have killed more than twice that number.
Assad, who calls his enemies terrorists and highlights the role of Islamist militants, grows in confidence as the threat of U.S. strikes fades and diplomacy affords him legitimacy.
“Syria and its allies are trying to buy time and avert Western action at all costs, while the Obama administration is also looking for time in the face of an uncertain congressional landscape,” said James Fallon of consultancy Control Risks.
“The proposal is of considerable short-term diplomatic utility but is unlikely to form the basis for long-term compromise.”
Those living in rebel-held areas say they now fear more years of attacks by weapons just as deadly and terrifying as nerve gas, but lacking the taboo, all while the world focuses on the minutiae of how to destroy Syria’s chemical arms. [Continue reading…]