Assad fired chemical weapons (CW), nerve gas on his people. Assad usually keeps his nerve, as during Israeli strikes against him, but apparently not always. Yet the U.S. Congress does not have to decide about authorizing a strike against Syria. The attention moved to the Russian initiative or rather diversion, if to be less diplomatic about the Russian offer concerning the CW in Syria. It seems the chances that the Assad regime allows anyone – including his ally Russia – to monitor, let alone remove and destroy his CW, are equivalent to the chances that Vladimir Putin and Barak Obama spend together a vacation, and enjoy it. Not much chemistry there.
Arms control experts might arrive to Syria. The lion (Assad in Arabic) from Damascus would play a game of cat and mouse with them. They would need to catch one i.e. a rat, from among Assad’s men to reveal where the CW is. They would have to outmaneuver a cunning regime of a Ba’ath party that struggles to keep his control in an artificial country after throwing CW on his own people. If this complicated horror story sounds familiar, indeed it is. The same happened with Saddam Hussein’s CW in the early 1990s and then it took 3 years to get rid of his CW. Furthermore Syria has one of the largest CW stockpiles in the world. Concerning the amount of CW Assad has, in comparison with Saddam Hussein’s, Syria is like Iraq in the early 1990s only on steroids, literally in this case.
Iraq in the early 1990 was after the 1991 Gulf war, while Syria is now fighting a civil war which would make reaching and removing the CW more difficult. The CIA has started to supply the rebels in Syria with weapons. This should help the efforts to find the CW in Syria, since it is their clear interest. If Assad did his chemistry homework on Iraq, the process of destroying his CW could take too long for the rebels. They would prefer to make Assad look as the one who blocked the arms control experts, which would pave the way for an American strike on Assad.
Assad might eventually agree to give up some of his CW, since he has a lot, while keeping most of this arsenal. Even this would be a last resort for Assad who wishes to dispose of his CW in one way only – which caused this affair to begin with – throwing the CW on the rebels and their supporters. For Assad they are the cancer of Syria and as the ruler and a doctor he sees himself as using chemotherapy to deal with that problem.
On the one hand letting Russia to be in charge of disarming the Syrian CW makes sense. Russia is familiar with the Assad’s business since the days of his father and actually ever since the 1950s, before the Assad dynasty took power in 1970. Russia should know where the bodies are buried in Syria, at least some of them. On the other hand Russia has assisted Syria with her CW program and has been supporting the Assad regime, in spite of all his brutal attacks against his population. Russia wants Assad to survive by allowing his war machine to be able to use gas.
The lack of will by Assad, Russia and actually also the rebels in Syria in creating a real process of destroying the CW in Syria predicts the results. The outcome of this chemistry lesson could be a decision by the United States – acting as principal of the global school – to respond to the current intractable student in the problematic class: the Middle East. The call might be to go “old school”, by disciplining Assad. The hope would be that after a strike Assad would not continue his lab work – testing chemicals on his rivals – or pay the price if he did, by being expelled for good.