The Syrian chemical weapons deal could work, if…

     A Syrian opposition fighter watches over as heavy fighting sparks out in the neighboring village of Kafr Nabuda in the Idlib province countryside, Syria, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013.  (AP Photo)

    A Syrian opposition fighter watches over as heavy fighting sparks out in the neighboring village of Kafr Nabuda in the Idlib province countryside, Syria, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo)

    The devil is always in the details, but John Watson thinks highly of the new deal to get rid of chemical weapons in Syria.

    Here is John Watson’s commentary.

    As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”  And now we sit and wait to see if all of the talking about the “done deal” between Russia and the United States, regarding their plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program, will be put into action as quickly as outlined in their agreement.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reached an agreement on Saturday, September the 14th to secure, remove, and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid 2014.

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    The United Nations will impose penalties on the Assad government if it refuses to comply with the deal.

    To make sure Assad understands it’s a real deal, the agreement requires a full inventory of all of Syria’s chemical weapons, stock piles and locations with in one week. International inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November to complete their initial assessment. All of the mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons will be destroyed.

    Republicans hammer away

    Meanwhile, to no one’s surprise I would think, Republican Senator’s John McCain and Lindsey Graham continue to hammer away at President Obama, calling the U.S.-Russian agreement, “morally and strategically indefensible”. They claim it’s going to send this nation down a “diplomatic blind alley.” They feel President Obama is being lead into it by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Leader Vladimir Putin.

    Sounds good to you if you are a died-in-the-wool right winger in the Republican Party, who is so busy trying  to make President Obama look so bad that you end up painting yourself into a corner with your hearing aide turned off. In their statement, the two GOP Senators said what’s needed is more support for the Syrian opposition forces, and creating “real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict.”

    They reminded President Obama of his previous position that the Syrian despot (Assad) must go.

    Force still an option

    If they had listened closely to what the Obama administration said about its Russian agreement, they would have heard President Obama say over and over again, “If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.” Any one with an ounce of knowledge about all of this, knows full well that means Obama will give the order for a military strike on Syria’s chemical weapons locations, which have been found, and will be followed to any relocation, when and if, Assad tries to hide them in a different location.

    President Obama prefers the diplomatic route to solve the chemical weapons problem, but is more than ready to attack if need be with or with out Congressional agreement. As for a regime change, I would guess that’s still in President Obama’s play book. He will act on it when the time is right. Keep in mind the U. S.-Russian deal is seen as a critical breakthrough in the international stalemate blocking a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.

    A message to the world

    Apparently, there is some thing else those Republicans don’t seem to know about. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergie Lavrov, are stressing the point that the deal sends a strong message- not only to Syria, but to the whole world- that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. If Syria, or any other nation, refuses to obey the rules of the agreement, their actions will be taken to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Those are the groups which over sees the Chemical Weapons Convention, that Syria agreed to join recently.

    Secretary of State John Kerry says U.S. officials support President Obama’s right to launch military strikes against Syria, with or without U.N. approval, to protect America’s national security interests. And he says, he has no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the pursuit of diplomacy helped to bring us to our workable agreement with Russia.

    Democart Senator Carl Levin, who disagrees with McCain and Graham’s assessment, says the agreement is enforceable, and he believes the outcome will be even better than the goals of the authorization approved.

    Levin is also backing the Obama administration’s handling of the negotiations. Unlike the negative outlook of Republicans like McCain, Graham and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, Senator Levin says the accord shows a strategic victory for the U.S. over their Russian and Syrian counterparts. Senator Levin insisted that the agreement still leaves a military response on the table and that President Obama remains prepared to act. He went on to say, “Russia and Syria sought two things in any agreement: a promise on our part not to use military force, and an end to international support for the Syrian opposition.”

    But this agreement includes neither item.

    So, now we know that the Obama administration holds more belief in action than a lot of pretty words.

    John Watson is a long time Wilmington talk show host.  You can write him at







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