So Kerry and Lavrov did end up hammering out a deal on Syria. I won’t go into the specifics here, but I want to focus on what is the single most important issue at stake: the risk of US aggression against Syria. And here, the picture is murky at best.
First the BBC had a headline saying “US to drop military threat“. But then in another article posted just a few hours later, the BBC correspondent said that Kerry outlined the agreement like this:
- The amount and type of chemical weapons must be agreed and “rapidly” placed under international control
- Syria must submit within one week a comprehensive listing of its stockpiles
- Extraordinary procedures under the Chemical Weapons Convention will allow “expeditious destruction”
- Syria must give inspectors “immediate, unfettered access” to all sites
- All chemical weapons must be destroyed, including the possibility of removing weapons from Syrian territory
- UN will provide logistical support, and compliance would be enforced under Chapter VII
So what is really going on? Have the Americans removed their threat of military aggression or not?
Actually, Russia Today provides the answer:
If Damascus fails to comply with the plan, a response in accordance with UN Charter Chapter 7 will follow, Kerry said, in a reference to the use of military force. The chapter provides for “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” in the event other measures fail.
But Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the agreement did not include any potential use of force against Syria. He however said that deviations from the plan, including attacks on UN inspectors, would be brought to the UN Security Council, which would decide on further action.
There is no prior agreement about what form the Security Council’s measures might take if Syria does not comply, Kerry said.
Ok, now the picture is clear. Let me paraphrase what the agreement actually says. What the deal foresees is a sequence in time. And there are clearly two interpretations here:
IF the Syrians do not comply THEN the UNSC will meet to decide on what measures to take under Chapter VII.
IF the Syrians do not comply THEN the UNSC will meet to decide on what measures to take possibly including measures under Chapter VII.
So, as they say in the USA, there is good news and there is bad news.
The good news is that at this moment in time there is no Chapter VII UNSC against Syria. Hence the headlines about the US dropping the military threat. To get to a legal use of military threat, the US and Russia would have to agree that Syria is not complying, and then they would then have to take the issue to the UNSC which would have to vote on it.
The bad news is that the US can easily say something like that: “Syria is in non-compliance, but the Russians are denying that even though the agreement signed by them clearly says that non-compliance would be enforced by Chapter VII -type measures. If the Russians are now reneging on their obligations, we, as the leader and protector of the free world and civilized mankind, shall proudly shoulder our obligations to the international community and the Syrian people”. Yes, that would be a mis-representation, but for a country willing to bypass the UN completely and whose diplomats and politicians lie every time their lips move this is really a no-brainer.
I therefore see this agreement as a Russian diplomatic failure.
Because any mention of Chapter VII in the Syrian context is totally unacceptable to me, as is any ambiguity. We already know how the US distorted the meaning of the UNSC Resolution on Syria to justify regime change. Regardless of what the agreement actually says, the simple fact that somewhere on that page there is the word “Chapter VII” is enough for Uncle Shmuel to justify the unjustifiable.
So why did the Russians agree? Have they suddenly become stupid?
My guess is that they bet on a combination of two factors:
a) they hope that the situation on the ground will change enough to make a US attack either impossible or meaningless, or both.
b) they hope that the forces inside the US “deep state” which were so opposed to a US attack on Syria (basically, the non Zionist Anglos) will put enough pressure on Obama to have him very grateful that there is now a way out of the corner into which he painted himself with his “red line”.
Finally, there is a real possibility that the amount of evidence which show that Sarin gas was used by the insurgents will become big enough to have the international community basically agree – however reluctantly – that Assad did not do it.
Needless to say, Assad better comply or the Russians will get really mad at him. My guess is that he will comply. Gladly.
Still, I personally see this latest agreement as a Russian diplomatic failure and I hope that it will not have any serious consequences. Overall, Putin’s “Russian Gambit” is something like a 80% success, but without this mention of “Chapter VII” it could have been a 100% success.
The Kremlin is walking a very dangerous path here and following this latest failure, it cannot afford any further mistakes.
So freaking Fabius and his ilk Araud have managed to get their way – as per the draft which is still picking dust since the British Parliament said Nay to pseudo-poodle Davie.
So the French won after all- Fabius has been asking for Chapter 7 since the British Parliament said Nay to Cameron. It’s been picking up dust on Araud’s desk before beoing turned into a blue draft
what of Russian boots on ground in Syria? Will there be any? If so, how will US view a future attack on Syria? As an attack on Russia? I’m confused here. Surely there’s more to this than compliance by Syria on CW?
Not so sure about your take on this. Syria is going to be under Russian protection from here on. It’s the Russian military that will keep Syria free. The chemical weapons scam is unlikely to work from this point – the Russians are going to say al-Qaeda/Saudis did it. More realistic weak points are from Israeli penetration of key points. The US can go to the UN if there is another attack no matter what.
@The Beaver:So freaking Fabius and his ilk Araud have managed to get their way
I don’t think so. This is still very far from a UNSC Resolution under Chapter VII. However, this slope is far more slippery than what I would have liked.
@crone & anonymous1236:what of Russian boots on ground in Syria? (…) Syria is going to be under Russian protection from here on
I sure hope that this is not the plan. Putting boots on the ground to protect Syria would be the Russian way of drawing a “red line” and we know that red lines without the will and means to enforce them inevitably lead to disasters (as soon as your bluff is called). Also, for Russia, Syria is not, repeat, NOT, worth risking a war with NATO and the USA. Finally, as I mentioned in a previous comment, Russia does not have the means to really stop the US/NATO. What the Russian Navy can do and, I believe, is already doing, is to gradually make it harder (more costly) for the US/NATO to attack Syria, but that does not mean that it can prevent or stop such an attack.
I have been following your excellent coverage of the Syrian crisis carefully. However this is the first time I disagree with you. I think you have seriously misunderstood the nature of the agreement Lavrov and Kerry made today, probably because you see this crisis through Syrian eyes rather than through Russian ones.
As Russia has repeatedly explained, it is defending international law not Assad. The reference in the agreement to a possible Security Council Resolution under Chapter VII is absolutely necessary in order to emphasise that it is the Security Council NOT unilaterally the US, which has the authority to decide whether or not Syria is in breach of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and to decide what action should then be taken.
Just discussed this with Mercouris on the Russia Debate and he thinks you’re being too pessimistic.
“As Russia has repeatedly explained, it is defending international law not Assad. The reference in the agreement to a possible Security Council Resolution under Chapter VII is needed to emphasise that it is the Security Council alone NOT the US acting unilaterally, which has the sole authority to decide whether or not Syria is in breach of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and to decide what action should then be taken. References in the agreement to the Security Council are consistent with and reinforce the Russian position. It is the US which has been consistently claiming the right to act outside the authority of the Security Council and it is Russia, which has been arguing against. The terms of the agreement reflect the Russian position, not the US position.
The important thing is that there will not be Chapter VII Resolution now. It is also clear from the text of the agreement that the Russians will be directly involved in its implementation. In other words they are not ceding control of the disarmament process to the US and its allies as happened disastrously in Iraq in the 1990s.
Here is the text of the agreement.”
I’m the next in line to disagree with your assessment…
I was quite astonished by Putin’s moves in the past month or so, and I must admit – the man kept surprising me with every next decision he’s made…
He seems to be much smarter than what I previously thought.
ONE PERSON I’ve never (NEVER EVER!) questioned out of all Russian (and indeed world) politicians – is Sergei Lavrov. The man is more than smart, he’s a foreign policy genius! If the world’s fate ever depended solely on one man, and I was the one that should choose whom it should be – I’d choose Lavrov. I never expect a ‘blunder’ from the man.