Syria chemical weapons deal: Path to disarmament or 'indefensible'? (+video)
The agreement brokered by the US and Russia to rid Syria of chemical weapons is getting mixed reviews. It could reduce such weapons, but critics say it plays into the hands of Iran and Hezbollah.
Like an exciting new TV series that may or may not be headed for a satisfying conclusion, the tentative agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons brokered by the United States and Russia is getting mixed reviews.Skip to next paragraph
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Many US lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats alike – tentatively welcome the agreement, if only because it relieves at least some of the pressure they were feeling to vote on a measure authorizing use of US military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
China, which (like Russia) likely would have blocked any measure in the UN Security Council that included the possible use of force against Mr. Assad, likes it, too.
So does Syria itself for at least two reasons: Their principal major power patron – Russia – wants them to, and the deal specifies no military or economic sanctions against Syria. It doesn’t even directly charge the regime with responsibility for the Aug. 21 chemical attack US intelligence sources say killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.
Quoted Sunday on Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti, Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar called the deal "a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends.”
"We welcome these agreements,” he said. “On the one hand, they will help Syrians come out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they prevented the war against Syria by having removed a pretext for those who wanted to unleash it” – an obvious reference to President Obama’s “red line” justification for a US attack.
Mr. Obama’s current position boils down to keeping those US Navy guided missile destroyers armed and ready off the coast of Syria while encouraging any diplomatic effort that could result in ridding Syria of its estimate 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons of mass destruction.
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos broadcast Sunday, Obama quoted one of his predecessors, who famously said “Trust, but verify” – the phrase former President Ronald Reagan used in approaching a nuclear arms reduction agreement with the former Soviet Union.
“We don’t have an actual, verifiable deal that will begin that process” of getting rid of Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama said. “But the distance that we’ve traveled over these couple of weeks is remarkable.”
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