Yesterday’s visit of Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem to Moscow looked very successful on the surface: it allowed his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to announce a proposal of placing Syrian chemical warehouses under international control in order to avoid the U.S. Military aggression. This should allow U.S. President Barack Obama to save face in the eyes of the international community and the American people after his vociferous declarations of imminent air strikes on Syria.
Clearly, the Russian minister could not have put forward such an initiative oh his own, if it had not been sanctioned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It would appear the Russian leader has put forward this idea during his bilateral meeting with the U.S. President in St. Petersburg on Sept. 6. An indirect confirmation of this is the bewilderment of the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In London yesterday he initially tried to disown the idea that what he’d said about Damascus’ surrender of chemical weapons was an official proposal. However, after apparently receiving a “reprimand” by Obama, he immediately changed his position and expressed willingness to discuss with Lavrov the details of the “Russian idea”.
A while later, the U.S. president announced that a military strike on Syria would be “definitely” postponed if the government of Bashar al-Assad allowed the international community to take control over its chemical stores. He called the initiative of the Russian Foreign Ministry for the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons under the international supervision “potentially positive”. According to the president, the United States is prepared to use diplomatic methods to resolve the Syrian conflict. Despite this, Obama believes that as concerns the Russian proposal, you must “take it with a grain of salt initially”. However, earlier Kerry said that his words on the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to international control were rhetorical in nature and in no way “an offer”.
And now the U.S. Senate has postponed the hearings on the military agression against Syria, according to CNN, which cited the leader of the Democratic majority in the upper house of Congress, Harry Reid. It was expected that a procedural vote on the Syrian issue is to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 11, but Reid has expressed a desire to avoid any haste, so that Obama would have to time to explain his position to every senator.
It may not be obvious why Obama has constented so unexpectedly to put the Russian plan to work. The fact is since he has met such a fierce opposition in Congress and the general public to his decision to launch strikes on Syria with no proof whatsoever of Damascus’s use of chemical weapons against the civilians. The open letter from the veterans of the armed forces and intelligence people of the United States on Sept. 6, for example. And it was followed by the article “What’s the Evidence Behind the Case for War; 5 questions Obama needs to answer about chemical weapons and Syria” by well-known American journalist Philip Giraldi from Sept. 9, which sets out five clear doubts concerning the use of chemical weapons in Syria that Washington should clarify first before taking any actions. Then immediately on Sept. 9, there was another publication
from the CQ news agency titled “Goppers: 67 Questions (From Liberals) for Obama on Syria» signed by Matt Fuller, representing the interests of liberal congressmen, and containing 67 questions for Obama, in which it os made clear that Assad could not have used chemical weapons due to 67 theories set out in the article. What’s more, the calls to impeach President Obama have appeared in the United States with demands for a thorough investigation of with whose money Washington plans to fight, whether senior officials of the White House were bribed, etc.
But just how seriously Obama is going to work with the Russian proposal – well now that’s a question. As stated on Sept. 9 by the director of the Kennan Institute in Washington, DC, chemical weapons expert Matthew Rojansky, the placement of the Syrian chemical weapons under international control will not be a key influencing factor on Obama’s decisions. “I think it only complicates the things for the United States. I do not know if it will change the decisions in a fundamental way,” RIA news agency quotes Rojansky . The expert believes that Obama’s main efforts will be to continue on winning the approval for military action in the Congress and to enlist even more allies and regional players aboard his “warboat”. “I think that if Obama finds a way to receive the full support of Congress, if he is backed by important allies, if he gets local support, then he does not need anyone else, because he believes that his credibility is at stake. He created this situation himself and the Russians will not be able to change it,” said Rojansky.
In the meantime, the president of the United States has failed to win the support of the majority of members of Congress, or persuade other countries to take part in the attack on Syria except for the same-old France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. According to director of the Kennan Institute, Moscow’s initiative is aimed at the postponement of a possible U.S. military action against Syria, to prevent the Libya-like scenario against Syria, when Russia did not block a UN Security Council resolution for intervention in this country, and a number of Western countries used it as a pretext for forced regime change in Libya.
New reports of continuing preparations for a military operation against Syria have emerged from the region, especially concerning the reinforcement of the rebels with Arab mercenaries and “volunteers”. And here once again, Saudi Arabia has “distinguished” itself – according to information received, 1,300 prisoners were released from prison yesterday on the condition that they go to Syria to take part in the war against the Assad regime. It is clear that this does not primarily concern criminal elements, but those who have been convicted of extremism, excessive even by the Wahhabi concept of Saudi Arabia. You can imagine what atrocities these “people” will perpetrate in Syria, where they will join the ranks of the rebels or create their own “units”.
That is why the current diplomatic initiative for the placement of Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has little chance of success if Congress does not vote against Obama’s decision to launch a massive operation against Syria. We can not exclude that the Syrian opposition’s trained militants will carry out provocations, striking Israeli territory with sarin or mustard gas shells from the territories controlled by the government troops. In addition, they plus Arab mercenaries, as well as members of the Al-Qaeda, may well use chemical weapons during terrorist attacks in neighboring countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel, and even in Europe and the United States. After all, in the spring of this year they were able to temporarily seize a chemical plant near Aleppo, which manufactured the precursors for sarin. They have received some materials from the current Libyan authorities, such as a chemical contents for Soviet model shells, captured from Gaddafi’s army warehouses. Information about this was published in December 2012 on the basis of correspondence intercepted by Internet hackers from the leaders of British security structure Britam, which received a proposal from Qatari security services for a large sum of money. At the time they proposed to carry out provocations in Syria using company employees from Commonwealth of Independent States countries, especially Ukraine, so that later they could be “detained” by the rebels and admit on camera that they were officers of Russian secret services. But because there was no proper investigation, the United States and the United Kingdom have successfully forgotten about that. There are masters of fraud there indeed. And now it has almost fully been proven that the footage of the alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 this year against the insurgents, the “victims” of which were allegedly 1,462 people (what a precise number), which has been used as an excuse for Obama’s current military escalation around Syria, was also faked. Even the members of the opposition, who recently arrived in London, have discussed it. The “victims” caught on tape, as it turned out, are not Syrians, but Iraqis, and it was filmed many years ago.
And so this is the peaceful respite achieved by Russia and the position of the U.S. Congress. But do not fall for the illusion that the supporters of the war and their Saudi sponsors will wait silently and watch as the diplomatic game evolves. You must wait for the next provocation, and again on the grounds of these notorious chemical weapons.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D., is a political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.