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Russian President May Have Bigger Diplomatic Move Ahead
By Wayne Jett © September 17, 2013

    Nothing went as planned for President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry in the first week of September. Kerry and then Obama asserted that Syria’s government forces used toxic chemical weapons to kill men, women and children, including civilians and “rebel” fighters, and must be punished by U. S. missile strike. Obama had U. S. naval forces in position. But public opposition rose so quickly his speech to announce the strike morphed into a request that Congress authorize it. As Congress pondered near unanimous negative public sentiment, Russian president Vladimir Putin suggested a diplomatic solution. Obama and Kerry grabbed the face-saves. From behind the curtain, their elitist handlers hissed “Curses! Foiled again!”

    Kerry and Obama insisted proof of the Syrian chemical attack was unequivocal, but others disagreed. Syria, Russia, the United Nations and many Americans conceded an attack with chemical weapons had killed people in Syria. But evidence pointed as much towards the “rebel” fighters as the culprits, not the Syrian government armed forces. Doubts about culpability of Syrian forces were at the center of hesitation in Congress to authorize an act of war against Syria.

                                                      Risks of Wider War

    “Who did it” was not the only consideration to be weighed in determining whether Obama and Kerry deserved support for an armed attack on Syria after two years of mounting casualties (estimated at more than 100,000 deaths). Russia made plain that the foreign-based attack on Syria’s government would not be permitted to succeed. As Kerry essentially announced an imminent attack, Russia’s Putin matched the ante with naval forces, state-of-the-art air defense systems and rocket batteries. Even that, however, was not the limit of risks exposed.

    Reports surfaced that Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar, suggested to Putin that he should back away from close support of Syria, lest the Olympics to be held in Russia fall prey to attacks inflicted by Chechen terrorists. Would this transparent threat by Saudi Arabia against Russia give rise to a Russian attack on Saudi Arabia if the U. S. attacked Syria?

    Meanwhile, Iran was not silent. Tehran made clear a U. S. attack on Syria would provoke an all-out Iranian attack against Israel, even though Israel had said it would not enter the Syrian conflict unless attacked. Thus, the “unbelievably small” cruise missile attack Kerry said the U. S. should unleash against Syria would promptly involve Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Russia in addition to the U. S. and Syria.

                                            Kerry’s Stumble Opens Diplomacy

    Kerry was the most strident pro-war voice from the outset of his efforts to persuade President Obama to sign on to a Syria strike. This remained the state of affairs on September 9, as Kerry conducted yet another press conference to muster congressional support. To placate public anti-war sentiment, Kerry declared the strike against Syria would be “unbelievably small.” Asked whether Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad could do anything to forestall any attack, Kerry threw up his hands, declaring Assad could put all of his chemical weapons under international control – but would certainly not do so.

    If Putin wanted war involving other nations or even including Russia, he would have ignored Kerry. Instead, Putin stepped in and offered his support in persuading Assad to turn over his chemical weapons as Kerry proposed. Immediately the path to avoid a dangerous war became apparent, and the world inched back up the slippery slope.

    Putin acted as he did even though he knew, and asserted, that U. S. evidence of Assad’s responsibility for the chemical weapons attack against his people was far from conclusive. Indeed, the evidence failed even to persuade some – the British House of Commons, included – that Assad was the likely culprit in the attack. Yet, Putin chose not to take the chance that he would win that debate at the U. N., perhaps because the debate would keep open the window of opportunity for a U. S. attack. He offered middle ground for compromise, leaving Obama no choice but to accept or be seen as finagling to enter and broaden the Syrian war.
                                           American Public Asserts Leadership

   This entire Syrian affair reflects badly on the quality of U. S. political leadership. The president, vice-president, Senate majority leader, speaker of the House, secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff marched in lock-step towards authorizing a military strike against Syria, citing dubious evidence that chemical weapons were used by Assad’s forces. No one in leadership spoke truth to power.

  The Republican speaker, John Boehner, returned from his Ohio district and, without consulting his party conference, promptly announced Republican support for the attack against Syria. Speaker Boehner’s district is no different from others across the U. S. – 99% strongly against the attack on Syria. Boehner must have been influenced by another interest – almost certainly the Establishment channel which furnishes him money with which to befriend others in his party, who elect him speaker.

   Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain and wannabe Lindsey Graham were loudly out front, in the Senate and elsewhere, demanding the military strike on Syria be bigger and sooner. With one Establishment in control, operatives in the two parties turn out the same political product.

                                                      Putin Diplomacy: One Win, One to Go

    Putin could not have pulled off his master-stroke of diplomacy without the vital role played by back-bench Americans of both parties and of no party. An overwhelming public majority steadfastly insisted that no U. S. military strike occur. They had their exponents in the Senate (Ted Cruz of TX, Rand Paul of KY, and even the minority leader, Mitch McConnell of KY), and able back-benchers in the House opposed the attack. No doubt, however, political talk would have come to nothing if Americans across the country had not made their unequivocal opposition known.

    Assad’s willingness to accept the Putin compromise may not have come so easily if Putin had been less steadfast in supporting Syria during the military build-up for the U. S. strike. With that performance in the record, Putin spent some political currency on the Syrian deal. But he may soon show that he has more to spend on an even bigger diplomatic coup. His purpose is not necessarily to achieve diplomatic stardom. Perhaps he aims to assure peace within which Russian prosperity may grow. George Washington recognized the need for peace in the young United States, and Russia needs peace in order to sell energy to Europe and elsewhere. Maybe the idea will catch among other national leaders.

    As the world knows, Putin flew to Iran to meet with its leadership. The Russian president has demonstrated to Syria, and to Iran, that he can be trusted in a diplomatic/military confrontation. Do not be surprised if, sometime soon, we learn of an alliance by which Russia has assured Iran of protection from a nuclear attack. With that assurance, Iran may declare its intention to forego development of its own nuclear weapons, removing this reason for the U. S. or Israel  to attack Iran. ~