Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Syria chemical weapons proposal is a bad deal

Russia's proposal for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons offers hope of averting US military involvement, but it's a bad deal that Obama should reject, at least as offered. 

For starters, it's rife with opportunities for stalling by the Assad regime, starting with deliberations and disagreements over who will be involved, how it will be enforced, and every detail of the implementation plan. Even in the most agreeable of circumstances, it's a task that must be done carefully and methodically. 

But even more troubling is the perverse alignment of interests the plan sets up. The first step must be to secure and protect the chemical weapon stockpiles, a task made even more perilous in an active war zone. That means either protecting the current protectors (i.e. Assad's regime) or importing new protectors -- i.e. the dreaded "boots on the ground." So it puts the international community in the position of perpetuating the Assad regime and defending it against rebels for an open-ended period of time. 

So, really, the deal only works if Assad agrees to existing international demands. He must make peace with his opponents, relinquish autocratic rule, and begin an orderly transition to a democratic pluralistic society. Then an orderly process of disarmament can begin. 

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