The absurdity of Vladimir Putin's anointment as a diplomatic leader by Republicans and the usual right-wing suspects at Fox News has reached new heights. The notion that the President was "hoodwinked" or "played" by Putin on the Syrian compromise is stupid, laughable, and nothing but the same old partisan hate for our President. Yes of course, Putin outfoxed and took advantage of Obama by giving him everything he wanted and more? That sure makes a lot of sense.
The usual anti-Obama suspects can stop kidding themselves on who was responsible for stopping the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the agreement by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to destroy the remaining stockpiles. Obama, that's who. The President's credible threat of force left Syria's biggest ally Russia powerless to do nothing but squirm and forced them to talk Assad into waving the white flag. Russia has significant trade relations, investments, lucrative arms contracts, and a substantial presence in Syria's infrastructure, and energy industries. Do you really think they wanted to see the United States conduct an air campaign on Syria? Of course not. But they were sitting there powerless to stop a potential limited U.S. strike.
So Putin helped deliver to the President everything he wanted including the framework agreement yesterday that delivers, in writing, just about everything the President demanded when he threatened to attack the Assad regime earlier this month. The agreement calls on Syria to declare in detail its entire chemical arsenal within weeks and destroy it – along with everything involved in making it – within five or six months. It outlines the inspection process, and if the Assad regime tries to stall or evade the agreement, Russia, far from protecting it, agrees to cooperate on U.N. resolutions that allow the use of force to compel compliance. The Russians also appear to have dropped their contention, claimed by Putin in his recent New York Times op-ed, that there is “every reason to believe” the horrific gas attack on August 21 that killed 1,400 people on the outskirts of Damascus, setting this crisis in motion, was somehow carried out by “opposition forces.”
One of the most extraordinary parts of the agreement is the paragraph in which the United States and the Russia both commit themselves to a U.N. Security Council Resolution imposing measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which means the authorization of military force if Syria fails to comply with the inspection and destruction program, “including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone. Essentially it holds Assad responsible for the actions of his subordinates, and potentially even for chemical attacks launched by his enemies. So the administration maintains its right to move forward and enforce in a limited way U.S. military action. Moreover, now that Syria and Russia have said that they agree to the destruction of chemical weapons, it's much easier for the President to rally both international and national support in the event that Syria fails to comply.
Bottom line: President Obama has stopped Bashar al-Assad from the further use of chemical weapons. Putin was powerless and acting from a position of weakness because he didn't want to see the U.S. take military action. Putin has given the President everything he wanted and more. Checkmate, President Obama.