Thursday’s Los Angeles Times reports that the very first deadline created under the U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons has already hit a snag. This weekend, Syria is expected to submit a full inventory of its chemical weapons and the facilities that produce them. According to the Times, though, Syria is likely to miss that deadline and the State Department has already “signaled that it would not insist that Syrian President Bashar Assad produce the list Saturday[.]”
A State Dept. spokeswoman apparently shrugged off Syria missing its first deadline by saying, “[O]ur goal is to see forward momentum … We’ve never said it was a hard and fast deadline.”
The moving of critical goal posts has come to define the Obama administration’s handling of the Syria issue. Everything started with President Obama’s off-script “redline” comment last year. Then, a few weeks ago, when Obama was poised to launch a unilateral war against Syria to enforce that red line, Secretary of State John Kerry went off-script with his own red line. Kerry said Syria could avoid war by giving up its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week.
In a move that many interpreted as a way to keep his friend in Syria in power and tie America up in diplomatic knots, Russian President Vladmir Putin leapt at Kerry’s hypothetical. Within hours, the very same president who described the United Nations Syria process as “hocus pocus” agreed to Putin’s offer to work through the UN to disarm Syria.
The eventual deal hammered out now gives Syria until the middle of next year to surrender its weapons — nine months as opposed to Kerry’s single week.
But the goal posts moved again Wednesday when Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad told Fox News that surrendering his chemical weapons could take up to a year, “or maybe a little bit more.”
And now we have the State Dept. already blinking when confronted with Syria missing its very first deadline.
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