Monday, John Kerry made an offhand comment about Syria avoiding American strikes if President Bashar Al Assad turned over “every bit of his chemical weapons in a week.”
His supposedly unauthorised comment was immediately latched upon by the Russians, who said they would agree to such a plan in theory, and eventually, perhaps reluctantly, supported by President Barack Obama.
But it’s clear that Kerry was not being serious. In fact, he admitted at the time that it was not a feasible idea.
Kerry’s full quote (emphasis ours):
He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.
Most experts agree that it would be hard-to-impossible to get Assad to give up his weapons any time soon.
Experts in chemical weapons disposal point to a host of challenges. Taking control of Assad’s enormous stores of the munitions would be difficult to do in the midst of a brutal civil war. Dozens of new facilities for destroying the weapons would have to be built from scratch, and completing the job would potentially take a decade or more. The work itself would need to be done by specially-trained military personnel. Guess which country has most of those troops? If you said the U.S., you’d be right.
It took several years to disarm Iraq, and Saddam had control of his borders. Assad clearly is not in control of his borders.
Let’s also not forget why Assad probably used chemical weapons in the first place. Looking at ground zero — smack dab next to a key airport — it’s likely Assad used them in an act of desperation, rather than one of provocation, reports Lee Smith of The Weekly Standard.
Assad must also know that fallen dictators don’t seem to fair too well. Smith writes, “From Assad’s perspective, without chemical weapons the Alawites might fall off the face of the earth.”
In all the flummox over Secretary of State John Kerry’s misstatements, moreover, it seems the Obama administration has forgotten that one of its goals was to remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad, not just deter chemical weapons use.
This from Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the day of the attack, “We’ve seen evidence and indications that the Assad regime is feeling that pressure, but you’re right that we have not — that it has not resulted in the outcome that we would like to see, which is Assad being completely removed from power.”
The entire approach to Syria was upended and turned inside out in a matter of 24 hours due in no small part to Kerry’s fumble and Vladimir Putin’s fumble recovery.
In the process of damage control, however, the end-state of the Syrian strikes was lost.
If you listened to the White House pitch closely, the point of the military strike was not just to stop Assad from using chemical weapons further on his citizens, and it was not just to warn other rogue leaders with their fingers on various triggers. Part of the goal was to force a political solution that would remove Assad from power. That is, even though the Obama administration has been insisting that it is not interested in “regime change,” that disastrous cornerstone of the Bush era, it was, in fact, pursuing regime change, at least until Monday.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.