The first statement from a member of the Syrian government concerning handing over their chemical weapons was released by the Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, Sunday. In this statement, Haidar refers to the agreement as a "victory" for Syria and al-Assad, and also states that: “On the one hand, [it] will help Syrians get out of the crisis, and on the other hand, [it] averted a war against Syria by removing the pretext for those who wanted to unleash one.” Haidar gives credit for the deal to Russia, not John Kerry - the man whose verbal goof landed this situation in Syria's lap to begin with. However, the US probably would not have continued down this route had it not been for Russia and their membership in the UN security council, giving them veto power concerning international military action.
The agreement, which was reached this past Saturday in Geneva, set a timetable for the removal and disposal of chemical weapons from Syria. The Syrian government must hand over a list of all of its chemical weapons by the end of this week, and all weapons must be accounted for and collected by November. All chemical weapon paraphernalia must be removed from the country by mid-2014.
Following Haidar's remarks Sunday, John Kerry made sure to reinforce the fact that this does not discount the use of military force: "The threat of force is real, and the Assad regime and all those taking part need to understand that President Obama and the United States are committed to achieve this goal." Kerry also stated that this series of events will serve as an example to both Iran and North Korea if similar situations were to arise in the future.
China also decided to release their first public comments on the situation. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that “We believe this framework agreement has cooled the tense situation in Syria and has opened a new opportunity to use a peaceful means to resolve the chemical weapons issue.” Like Russia, China has an alliance with Syria and also holds veto power on the UN Security Council.
While al-Assad's administration views the weapons deal as a victory, the rebel groups in Syria feel as if this is a defeat. The Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups, released a statement in which they called for more bans than simply a ban on chemical weapons: “The Syrian National Coalition insists that the ban of use of chemical weapons, which led to the loss of lives of more than 1,400 Syrian civilians, must be extended to ban the use of the regime air power and ballistic weapons against population centers, in addition to the redeployment of heavy weapons away from population centers, and the prohibition of use of these weapons to bomb Syrian cities and villages.”
The group also questions the legitimacy of the deal brokered between Syria, the United States, and Russia: “The Assad regime has a long track record of deceit when it comes to dealing with the treaties and empty promises in the regime attempt to buy more time.” There have been speculations that Syria has already been sneaking chemical weapons out of the country and into the neighboring countries of Iran and Lebanon. However, in a statement released from the prime minister's office, Iraq stated "We confirm that Iraq is against possessing such weapons and other weapons of mass destruction anywhere in the world and under any excuse."
Given the amount of attention that has been given to a potential military conflict with Syria, the impact it has had on the international marketplace, and the impact it has had on Presidential and Democratic party popularity, one would have to view this deal as a victory for Syria and al-Assad. Not only did the US not intervene and help the rebel populations with their mission to overthrow al-Assad's oppressive regime, but the US also lost much international clout. The United States once again came across as the international bullies, and to add insult to injury, Russia came across as the savior. This series of events just proves that Putin, much like bourbon, becomes better with age. His recent op-ed in the New York Times and his political maneuverings to ensure that Russia received credit for this deal should make the US wary for the years to come.
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