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as a result of complication Assad dictates the rules of the game

Reader comment on item: Scoring the Syria Deal

Submitted by myth (Germany), Sep 18, 2013 at 04:21

The Syria deal indicates a substantial change in objectives. Initially Assad was presented with the demand to abstain from using chemical weapons. Now the demand is to surrender all chemical weapons.

Note that today's demand is more ambitious. While the first needed Assad's passive cooperation the second requires his active cooperation. While the first could have been dealt with deterrence and possibly a one-time-strike the second launches a long and continuous activity. While the first considers a single use of weapons, the second depends on thousands of items. The complexity of the actual task has grown by large amounts.

Whoever wants to collect and secure the chemical arsenal relies on the Syrian regime. That is why Assad now dictates the rules of the game. Technically only the Syrian regime can give the count and multiple locations of the chemical agents. They can either conceal the existence of agents or invent non-existent weapons. In other words, the Syrian regime alone can shorten or prolong the disarmament by whichever option they choose at any given time.

In terms of the red-line metaphor the situation looks like this. Rather than keeping Assad on one side of the line we are now walking along that line hand-in-hand with Assad and only Assad determines where this line ends. Assad is in command of a range of very granular options and thereby gains power over whoever wants to disarm his regime.

Even worse, the process is not productive with respect to the initial goal. Assad can use chemical weapons until the very one last leaves Syria.

The current Syria deal seems counter-intuitive to me. Obama went for a far more ambitious goal after failing on a limited one.

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