But in the medium term, what has transpired after the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus has clearly favoured Assad, Russia, Iran.
The most significant change in the White House position is that it now seeks to “transition” Assad out of power only after his chemical weapons are destroyed.
That means Assad is no longer a “dead man walking.” And he immediately used his newfound standing to demand that the U.S. stops threatening to strike Syria and ceases arming Syrian rebels or else Syria won’t fulfil the deal.
All in all, the chemical weapons deal gives Assad what he needs most: Time to win the war.
Experts and officials immediately concluded that the unprecedented plan of locating and destroying a massive arsenal of chemical weapons in an active warzone was a “nightmare” that would require a cease-fire between Assad and the 1,000 rebel groups that make up the opposition. In short, the plan is nearly impossible to pull off.
Nevertheless, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to a deal aimed at destroying the arsenal by mid-2014, thereby indefinitely stalling the prospect of American airstrikes.
On Friday Syria submitted an incomplete list of chemical weapons to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), causing further delays. The OPCW said it has indefinitely postponed a Sunday meeting to discuss a Russia-US plan to destroy Syria’s arsenal.
Russia has the power to veto any UNSC resolution that comes after the OPCW process.
Meanwhile, Lavrov has suggested forcing the opposition to enter peace negotiations.
Iran has supported Assad through billions in credit, elite Iranian troops, Hezbollah guerrilla fighters from Lebanon, and Shi’ite militias from Iraq. The Shia Republic is also training Shia militiaman from across the region at secret bases in Iran to deploy them in the field.
From The Wall Street Journal:
“Under its overseas commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the military unit established ‘operation rooms‘ to control cooperation between Tehran, Syrian forces and fighters from Hezbollah.”
Basically, Iran is now calling the shots for the Assad regime.
“Qasem Soleimani is now running Syria,” Col. Ahmed Hamada, an officer with the rebel Free Syrian Army, based near the northern city of Aleppo, told The Wall Street Journal. “Bashar is just his mayor.”
Furthermore, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has offered to broker the peace talks that Russia is pushing.
Beyond the debatable value of a U.S. strike, America’s recent moves have angered and disheartened America’s allies in the opposition and weakened U.S. influence in the region while strengthening Assad and his backers.
Interpreter Magazine Editor-In-Chief Michael D. Weiss put it bluntly:
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