Syria will get rid of their chemical weapons, and the United States will refrain from using military force against the country's dictator if a newly minted agreement between the US and Russia holds up.
A chemical weapons expert told the Times that the deal between Russia and the US was unique: “They are cramming what would probably be five or six years’ worth of work into a period of several months, and they are undertaking this in an extremely difficult security environment due to the ongoing civil war.”
According to the text of the accord, Syria must submit to weapons inspections by November, and critical equipment used to manufacture and use chemical weapons must be destroyed at the same time. Syria must ensure "complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.”
Yet the agreement allows for Russia and the US to maintain their respective postures to save face. Russia is still on record as opposing any military intervention and denying reports that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks that killed at least 1,400 Syrians, while the US is still threatening to strike, with or without the support of the UN security council, if Syria does not accede to the terms.
“We haven’t made any changes to our force posture to this point,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
Though this solution, which Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally stumbled upon earlier this week (or sure, whatever, it was his plan all along), seems to achieve America's previously-stated goal of stripping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad of chemical weapons, clearly Assad would prefer not to be attacked by US missiles.
“What about the murderer Bashar who gave the order? Should we forget him?” rebel commander General Salim Idriss said of the agreement. “We feel let down by the international community. We don’t have any hope…Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people."
Another expert told Foreign Policy that Assad might ignore the terms of the agreement: "It's not inconceivable that he adopts the Saddam Hussein playbook from the 1990s—refusing access to facilities, having the inspectors run around the country chasing their own tails—as a way of playing out the clock."
Meanwhile, look for Vladimir Putin's review of Thomas Pynchon's new novel in this week's New York Review of Books.