Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has asked international inspectors to spare a dozen of its chemical weapons factories from the wrecking ball, The Cable has learned. The Syrians say they want to convert the plants into civilian chemical facilities. But the move is fueling concern among some non-proliferation experts that Damascus may be seeking to maintain the industrial capacity to reconstitute its chemical weapons program at some later date.
The Syrian request -- which was contained in a confidential letter from Muallem to Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- has also raised concern among some Western governments that Syria may seek to entangle the inspection agency in lengthy negotiations that could drag out the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons.
The OPCW -- which, along with the United Nations, is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons program -- has frequently allowed states that volunteer to eliminate their nerve agent plants to convert the facilities into a production for vaccines, medicines, and other life-saving products. But states must first make a "compelling" case to justify the preservation of such a facility. The Syrian letter does not detail how the civilian chemical plants would be used, according to an official that has been briefed on its contents. Any exception to the Syrian chemical destruction program would have to be ratified by the 41-nation OPCW executive council, which counts the United States as a member. Such decisions are typically made by consensus.
Forty years ago this fall, the United States shipped more than 20,000 tons of tanks, artillery, weapons, and supplies to Israel to ensure its victory over two of the Soviet Union’s Arab clients, Syria and Egypt. Those airlifts showed the Arabs that despite their numerical superiority, they had no hope of defeating the tiny Jewish state. As long as Israel was backed by a United States willing to prove its resolve and determination to stand by its allies, the conclusion was etched in stone—America doesn’t lose, and neither do her friends.
It now seems to be the general consensus that President Obama’s Syria policy is a contradictory mess. But that’s only how it appears on the surface. Probe a bit deeper and it’s very seriously deranged.
Near the end of his speech to the nation on Syria, President Obama quoted Franklin Roosevelt: “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideas and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”
Maybe Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin really did discuss the idea of putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control last week on the sidelines of the G20 conference. Putin sure doesn’t care that Obama’s taking credit for the proposal, or that the administration is posturing like a Mob enforcer. “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, “is because of the U.S. threat of military action.”
"It's a pity they can’t both lose.” So Henry Kissinger famously said about Iran and Iraq during their long and ugly war in the 1980s. Having squandered the many opportunities created by the uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and with the Syrian opposition increasingly dominated by al Qaeda-associated fighters, this has now become the de facto policy of the Obama administration.