America’s Agreement With Russia: Reax

Eli Lake calls it “very ambitious”:

The first step of the U.S.-Russian framework agreement requires President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to submit to the United Nations “a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.” Press reports say Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed in private talks in Geneva last week that Syria possessed about 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents, including nerve gas and blistering agents. But the devil is in the details. After the first submission from Syria, the U.S.-Russia plan says an initial round of inspections is supposed to be complete by the end of November, and Syria’s chemical stocks should be destroyed by the middle of 2014.

Jay Newton-Small sizes up the deal:

The framework did not address Assad’s demand in a Russian television interview on Friday that in exchange for his cooperation the U.S. stop arming the Syrian rebels. And Assad could drag the process out for years, as former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein did, if at any point he stops cooperating. Syria experts worry that the deal could empower Assad and undermine the opposition. “If [Assad] becomes our interlocutor how do we square that with our statement that he’s no longer legitimate? How do we square that with our statements that he has no future role in Syria?” says Steve Heydemann, a Syria expert at the U.S. Institute for Peace. “In effect this reinforces his future role in Syria.”

Shadi Hamid is furious about the agreement:

For his part, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than “punished” as originally planned.

He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return. Obscured in the debate of the past few weeks is that chemical weapons were never central to the Syrian regime’s military strategy. It doesn’tneed to use chemical weapons. In other words, even if the regime does comply with inspections (which could drag on for months if not years), it will have little import for the broader civil war, which Assad remains intent on winning.

Marc Champion has a different perspective:

[T]he odds of limited U.S. missile strikes ending the slaughter in Syria or toppling Assad are slim-to-zero. In 1999, 78 days of bombing Serbia didn’t remove Slobodan Milosevic, another monster. It took that long to persuade him to pull troops out of Kosovo. … The anger that Hamid and others feel over the U.S.-Russian deal is a displaced fury over the failure of the international community to do zip to end this conflict. That failure is set to continue, with or without airstrikes.

Cassidy weighs in:

For the next few months, at least, events are likely to proceed along three tracks—none of which involve direct U.S. military action. Inside Syria, Assad will continue his efforts to bludgeon the rebels and their supporters, using conventional high explosives and bullets rather than mustard gas and sarin. Meanwhile, and probably under the auspices of the United Nations, the process of identifying, verifying, and securing at least some of the Syrian C.W. stockpiles will begin. Having gone this far, Putin will certainly insure that Assad does enough to prevent an immediate collapse in the disarmament effort. Finally, and most significantly, diplomatic efforts to end the civil war will intensify.

Win-win-win-win. Unless you are the rebels and thought you could get the West to ensure your victory – something that would bring with it another host of questions the neocons haven’t bothered to think through, just as they never thought through the end-game in Iraq.