Russia-America deal on Syria is a green light for further massacres

Assad’s regime isn’t going to hand over chemical weapon, writes Michael Petrou


(Photo by REX/Flo Smith/NurPhoto)

“I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that the threat against Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests,” U.S. President Barack Obama told ABC News over the weekend, speaking of his decision to postpone any potential U.S. strikes on Syria in response to an apparent government chemical weapons attack on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 people.

Two weeks earlier, Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, was delivering a different message. He called the sarin gas attack an inexcusable moral obscenity that “defies any code of humanity.” The President, Kerry assured us, had made it clear to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that there would be “consequences” for its use of chemical weapons.  “Nothing today,” he said, “is more serious.”

Now we learn that it’s not such a big deal after all — at least not compared to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the threat these might pose to Israel.

It’s hard to imagine anything Obama might say that would make him more loathed by Syrians who continue to be slaughtered by Assad’s forces.

As for “consequences,” these amount to an implausible and logistically near-impossible deal that would see Assad’s regime, in the midst of a civil war, hand over the chemical weapons it recently denied possessing. America’s partner in this game of diplomatic make-believe is Russia, which arms Assad and claims he didn’t use chemical weapons in the first place.

Nowhere in the Russian-U.S. deal is there any mention of preventing Assad from carrying out further atrocities without chemical weapons. Indeed, even when the United States seemed poised to hit Assad, it was to be a limited response to his alleged use of chemical weapons.

“What happens if Assad decides to round up 5,000 people and shoot them Einsatzgruppen-style,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, asked in an interview with Maclean’s.

“Is really the method of mass killing the principle motivator for international action, rather than the fact of mass killing? Even if you want to focus on the moral humanitarian aspect of this, that seems odd.”

The likely answer is that nothing would happen. Lining up 5,000 people and shooting them would be a war crime, but then so is gassing 1,400, and Assad is getting away with it. He has an implicit green light to kill, so long as it isn’t with gas, again.

And, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that Obama were to deliver a solemn speech warning that machine-gunning civilians into ditches would constitute a “red line.” Who, now, would take him seriously?

Under Obama, the United States is neither feared nor loved in the Middle East.

Authoritarian allies look at his morally justified abandonment of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and doubt his loyalty. They will compare it to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s steadfast support for Assad and draw the appropriate conclusions.

Liberals and others who oppose the region’s thugs and dictators will look at America’s seeming indifference to their struggles and conclude they need to find friends elsewhere. The growing strength of radical Islamists among the Syrian opposition stems in part from the fact that Islamists in the Gulf and elsewhere will help where the West will not.

And America’s enemies will look at Obama’s feckless blundering over the past few weeks and conclude, rightly, they have less to fear from the United States than they once did.

Iran, too, is drawing lessons from America’s reaction. Video evidence emerged this week that large numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Syria fighting with government forces. Iran’s is committed to preserving Assad. Two years ago Obama said Assad should go. The Iranians are willing to back up their words with actions. America, it’s now clear, is not.


Russia-America deal on Syria is a green light for further massacres

  1. This article is an over simplification. Will the people of Syria really be better off with some arbitrarily self-appointed rebel groups, with many conflicting motives, dictating over their lives? The alternative to Assad, may be worse than Assad. Unless the United States goes in there with a considerable force and ensures that a fair, democratic government is established, there is no telling what the end result could be. I would say it is better to be cautious and go the diplomatic route, for the sake of everyday Syrians. This is the only way to ensure stability in the region…. unless you think governance by many opposing tribal war lords would make the place better for Syrians…

    • the only reason they help anyone is to over throw leaders that opose them,…
      & it seems they don’t mind feeding any one they can find to do it,..
      like Bin Ladin when Russia was in Afganistan,…they trained him,..funded him,..& later killed him,…. funny,….

  2. Oh dear, how clueless is this writer. Please find another job, because reporting facts is something you have no idea about.

    • I don’t agree with him more then half the time either. But your childish and anonymous comments add nothing to the debate.

  3. 1- Syria never denied of having CWs
    2- It is not in US business to intervene in a country half a world away

    • only when it in it’s “core interests” to protect Israel at any cost…why?

      • Nothing has happened to Israel yet.

  4. America,….when will you stop falling for the “red herring” trick,…..

  5. I will be accused of supporting the Assad regime. I do not, and if Russia were doing as much to trump up reasons to expand an international war in the region, I would be just as anxious to point out their lies…

    Remember the word, “apparent”, in your first paragraph? Why is it dropped throughout the rest of the article? Frankly the word should have been “allegedly”, and should have been followed by a discussion of who alleged it, and what evidence they have offered. It would be fair, too, to mention the various forms of evidence offered by those supporting the Assad regime, to the contrary.

    It is noteworthy, that Obama’s threat itself is an aggression in contravention of the UN Charter. An actual attack on Syria, would also have been an unprovoked and illegal act of war. Furthermore, under the UN charter, while the US action would have been (and actually was) illegal, it would also justify and make legal under the charter, a retaliatory attack by Syria or its allies against the USA. Now given that our western warmongers are presumed not to be totally non-compos-mentis, it is fair to assume that they actually want another war that would ensue in the event of such retaliation. It is also fair to assume that they would profit by such a war, but the western public would not.

    As for whether Obama should now be able to deliver speeches threatening force in other circumstances, such speeches would also be illegal aggression under the UN charter, as was his one a year ago, and more recent threats. Why should he be free to violate that charter to which his country is signatory, at will?

    And again, reference to Russia’s sale of armaments to Syria might well be balanced by

    questions about the rightness of US sales of armaments to Saudi, Qatar, Israel, Turkey, and any other US ally who has been channelling aid to domestic and foreign fighters against the Assad regime. Among such aid, appear to be arms, logistical aid, salaries, or even coerced prisoners, released to become jihadists. It has also been tacitly admitted, that US special forces and CIA have been providing and coordinating such aid for many months, or even years. Those contributions are a clear violation of international law, while Russia’s sale of arms is equivalent to any such sale by the US or Britain; Deplorable, but no more so than the west’s.

    The reason the charter forbids international aggression, is to avoid another international conflagration. It also tacitly recognises that domestic players are better equipped to know what is on the table, and who the legitimate players are.

  6. So basically you want the American war criminals to attack the Syrian war criminals to protect the Israeli war criminals.

  7. Israel, the regime that has all but wiped Palestine off the map has stockpiles of illicit biochem/nuke WMD and has snubbed international inspections and refused to sign the NNPT. Who would blame the Iranians for wanting a nuclear deterrent to the Israeli menace? The US is an irrational, bias and ultimately illegitimate mediator vis a vis Israel. AIPAC, the most powerful Israel lobby has American politicians by the throat – under occupation, almost. The Israel regime is a provoker of WMD in the region and must be dealt with like any other regime if broader Middle East disarmament is to have a chance. The US is not a capable broker.

  8. I find it odd that chemical analysis of the Sarin used in Damascus has not been compared to that of Syria’s stockpile. If it has been I would sure like to know the results, same impurities? How difficult is it to stick a sample in a Gas chromatography sniffer and compare it to known samples. I think this is going to cause an upswing in terrorist usage of CW, they have seen them work a few times now and this time with an almost devastating attack from the US in what could have been a misdirection.

  9. Obama exemplifies the duplicity that is the real threat in the Middle-east.
    He says Chemicals are intolerable but neither Israel or the US care about the few hundred Syrians that were killed by the chemical attack. He has wanted the UN to license him for a clear bomb run at Assad so that he can strike an indirect blow against Iran for Israel for a long time. We will never know who was really behind the chemical dispersion.The moral indignation of the US Government is laughable puppet show. Kerry even looks the part of a puppet as he delivers the sanctimonious message that the use of chemical weapons are a violation of code of war conduct. The US had no such reservations when they used of Agent Orange in Vietnam. It caused misery for thousands of Vietnamese including US servicemen who were left abandoned by their health service when they came back.
    Given free reign Obama will be a reckless tool under the guided hands of vested interests.

  10. There are several rebel groups in Syria waiting for Assad to go.
    Matters will only get worse with Assad gone.

    Catch 22 :(

    • Finally another situation in the world where all the bien pensants can wring their hands in self righteous horror. Reminds me of the Balkans.

  11. If the United States bombs, it will be further hated by the Middle East.
    (If it doesn’t hit, which it eventually will, by the Republicans) the world will be closer to ‘whirled peas.’

  12. If only he’d just been smart enough to use white phosphorus or
    depleted uranium. Life would be so much simpler.

  13. Poorly edited (as always) and I agree with comments below, over-simplification of the West’s general opinion of the situation :(. Does everyone accept what they are told as blatant truth? How are you certain Assad is behind the attack still?. yeah mass killing is mass killing but again who is to say Assad did it. From what I’ve seen (video clip wise of reporters who are actually in Syria) the Syrian Army is the ones (along side Iranians) liberating towns from the multiple jihadist organizations because most of the rebel groups are foreign and local Islamic fundamentalists attempting to gain a foothold in a fragile region torn by civil war … Odd Obama never seems to mention Israel’s ability to be feared in the Middle East, 80 plus nuclear war heads stock piled next door might make any countries leaders, dictators or not, a little bit uneasy. Quit calling for cease to arms (chem and nuclear) when the US and it’s allies are hardly willing to do the same. Chemical weapons red-line, what a joke! white phosphorus or depleted (and enriched for a month or so) uranium used by US and Britain in the Iraq War not even 10 years around. Chemical testing on minority citizens in the army in the 40s/50s, Vietnam (the whole damn war), tear gas anyone???

  14. I want to place this in the unsophisticated foreign policy analysis category. I didn’t realize this particular author was one of the chest-thumping ‘realists’. This article makes no mention of what America’s strategic interests are and how concrete objectives might be served or perhaps undermined by direct, boots on the ground action in Syria. John McCain could have written this article. Disappointing.

  15. This article is joke, bombing dictatorships out of existence hasn’t fixed one middle eastern country yet. This is a proxy war fueled by outside forces (Iran, Israel, Russia, Saudia Arabia) Assad isn’t the only party guilty of killing people, if Assad gets ousted who is going to take over Syria? What a bunch of rubbish.

  16. [western reports on violence in Syria] It is “a fake”, Mother Agnes Mariam said, which “hides atrocities committed in the name of liberty and democracy”.
    Michael talks here about Irans Nuclear program might pose a threat to Israel. So does Israel’s nuclear and chemical weapons pose a threat to the region? Perhaps the use of white phosphorous on civilians by the Zionist regime might be indicative of future behaviour. What was it Jesus said, something about doing on to others as you would have done un to yourself?
    Michael mentions Syrians being slaughtered by Assad. Probably so. What about a mention of Western Backed rebels (Al Qeada linked terrorists) murdering and eating christians and other Syrians who do not convert to Al Qeada’s version of Islam?
    This reads like a paid for propaganda puff piece by a lazy hack war booster. Booo earns.