Shifting tack on Syria is good news for Israel
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This week saw the fast-moving diplomatic developments in Syria shift into an even higher gear, as war fever appeared, at least for the moment, to break.
With the Assad regime accepting Russia’s offer to broker the repossession and dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, and the Obama administration taking that offer seriously, if skeptically, the Middle East may have avoided a potentially catastrophic military clash.
The Syrian affair has scrambled many established geopolitical norms. Who would have thought Russian President Vladimir Putin would be the one to find a way for the parties to step back from the brink? Who would have guessed that a war crime committed nearly 6,000 miles away from Washington could have thrown Congress so far off its standard partisan gamesmanship?
So far, the Russian offer fails to fully satisfy either Assad or the demands of the West. The Assad regime wants to walk away from this still in charge, winning its war against Syrian rebels, and with its pride intact. On the other hand, in his Tuesday night speech to the nation, President Barack Obama made clear he wants to keep his military options open.
A wide gulf remains, and with Russia as the apparent arbiter, all parties have cause for doubt and pessimism.
But with this last, best chance for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, everyone with a stake in the outcome should support it.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Will Syria abide by what should be stringent inspection and verification protocols? Is Russia really acting in good faith or merely stalling for time on behalf of its client state? The whole effort could fall apart and we would be back where we started: on the verge of a new Middle East war, with no predictable outcome.
Even if all goes well with this latest diplomatic push, Syria’s civil war goes on. Assad will continue to butcher his own people, only now sticking to more morally acceptable conventional arms. The rebels, many of them Islamists aligned with al-Qaida, will press on, committing atrocities of their own. The number of refugees, now topping a million, will continue to swell. Things in Syria will remain horrible.
But if the United States can avoid getting embroiled in yet another war, if Israel can avoid being drawn into any such war, and if U.S. domestic politics can return to other pressing issues, at least a greater good can be achieved on some level.
It is in that spirit that we wish the negotiators great success. It’s time to step back from the brink.
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