President Barack Obama switched gears Monday, embracing a Russian-backed proposal to have Syria transfer its chemical weapons stockpile to international control–an idea that emerged from a gaffe earlier in the day by Secretary of State John Kerry. The proposal may allow President Obama to “save face” as defeat looms in Congress for his attack resolution, but Israeli leaders openly scorned the idea of trusting Syria to obey international monitors given that the regime has flouted similar measures on arming Hezbollah.
President Shimon Peres, a staunch supporter of President Obama, reacted to the proposal by warning that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is “not trustworthy,” and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said that Syria merely would use any such deal to “buy time,” according to the AP. They seemed to agree with skeptics in the U.S. such as conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, who noted that the deal cements Assad’s efforts to stay in power and effectively guarantees him victory in Syria’s civil war.
Last month, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) noted in a blog post that Syria had violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War and mandated that Hezbollah would disarm and leave southern Lebanon. (France, which will introduce a new resolution formalizing the Kerry gaffe, was involved in drafting Resolution 1701 as well). Since then, the IDF said, Syria has helped re-arm and strengthen Hezbollah, with help from Iran, openly violating the cease-fire:
Not only is Hezbollah guilty of violating Resolution 1701, but so are Iran and Syria.
Article 15 stipulates:”…all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft:
(a) The sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories”
In the years following the Second Lebanon War, Syria and Iran have transferred large stockpiles of weapons to Hezbollah. In Hezbollah’s arsenal one may find: Iranian-manufactured Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets with a range of between 43 and 75 kilometers, Iranian-manufactured Fatah 110 rockets with a range of 250 kilometers and Syrian-manufactured 302mm rockets with a range of between 110 and 115 kilometers. In 2010, Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commented that Hezbollah “has more missiles than most governments in the world.”
Given the fact that Syria has violated the cease-fire so blatantly without any consequences, it is no surprise that both Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced the deal floated by Kerry’s rhetorical “goof.” And given the looming failure of a congressional vote to authorize force, given the collapse in public support for Obama’s proposed “limited” strike against Syria, it is no surprise that Obama rushed to embrace the new proposal, claiming credit for it as the positive outcome of his military threats.
Yet neither an international monitoring agreement nor a “limited” strike would do much to deter the threat that Syria and its patrons pose to the U.S. and its allies. Israel, which appeared to throw its support to the president in recent days in the evident view that prodding Obama to do anything represented progress, now faces the prospect of even greater threats from an Obama-endorsed deal that will almost certainly enable Syria and Iran to hide weapons of mass destruction away for future use–and not just against Syrian civilians.
Photo: AP/Jim Hollander