Putin's Spectacular Syrian Smoke Screen
Published: September 20, 2013 (Issue # 1778)
President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad, taking advantage of global fatigue for foreign humanitarian interventions, have created a smoke screen of mammoth proportions. Instead of holding the Assad regime responsible for war crimes, the world is now focused exclusively on Russia's "peaceful plan" to destroy Assad's deadly stockpile of chemical weapons.
This could well prove to be the largest smoke screen that the world has witnessed since Operation Fortitude, the Allied's legendary military deception that diverted Axis attention away from the Normandy invasion in France during World War II.
"Operation Disarm Syria" came to life last weekend after two days of negotiations between Russia and the U.S. The two countries signed a framework agreement in Geneva to identify and destroy Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. Now the two countries, along with the other three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, must agree on the wording of a UN resolution that will govern the disarmament plan.
One of the biggest sticking points is determining what punitive measures should be included in the resolution if Assad does not comply with the plan. The U.S., France and Britain are in favor of including the UN Chapter 7 provision, which would sanction military operations against Syria for noncompliance. Russia and China categorically oppose foreign military intervention and would veto such a resolution, citing the "abuse" of the Chapter 7 provision in Security Resolution 1973, which allowed the U.S., France and other allied countries to bomb Libya in 2011 and force a regime change there.
But the only chance that Assad will destroy Syria's chemical weapons is if he feels a constant and real threat of military intervention. Notably, it was only the imminent threat of an attack by U.S. cruise missiles that prompted Assad and Putin to propose chemical weapons disarmament in the first place.
This principle of "peace through strength" is the only way to deal effectively with totalitarian regimes. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, for example, used this strategy successfully to face down the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is even more essential when the West is trying to deal with Assad, one of the most brutal dictators of the 21st century. Without the threat of force, Assad will string everybody along for years, violating every UN resolution at will while keeping a large stash of chemical weapons in secret locations just in case.
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