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Opinion

September 13, 2013

Watson: Syria has halted its use of gas

The latest developments in the fast-evolving events surrounding the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons came as a surprise to almost everyone. And interestingly, in the United States, everybody from the doves to the hawks can take partial credit for the very appearance of those developments.

It is fascinating, really. Events appear to have followed nobody’s neat geopolitical theories. It appears that the seeming resolution of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to take military action against President Assad’s assets was the thing that got Russia’s attention.

And simultaneously, it was Obama’s delay in launching strikes — because he belatedly decided to seek Congressional approval for them — that bought sufficient time for discussion and diplomacy to discover an avenue that may yield a non-violent solution to neutralizing Syria’s chemical weapons.

So there’s something here to make everybody humble, and everybody smarter. Those who are apt to condemn any use of military force can recognize that the credible — imminent almost — threat of American cruise missile strikes is quite possibly the primary reason that Russia and Syria are now willing to negotiate with us. And those warrior-types who were fretting that Obama and America were looking weak and without “credibility” can recognize that our nation’s hegemony is not nearly so evanescent as they apparently believed.

All of that said, the near-standoff is not yet resolved. The world is watching to see if Russia and Syria will really accede to what could be quite severe conditions in any agreement that would halt — possibly permanently — the U.S. or NATO bombing of Syria.

Will President Assad permit U.N. inspectors to survey all of his chemical weapons? In the middle of a civil war, would inspectors even be able to do that?

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