(Photo by Spencer Irvine)
How do you wage a civil war, get accused of using chemical weapons on your citizens, avoid a US military strike, admit that you actually have chemical weapons, sit for two US televised interviews and pretty much guarantee that you’ll stay in power? Ask Mr. Bashar al-Assad – because that’s exactly what he’s managed.
Yesterday, President Assad sat for his second interview with a US media outlet (Fox News) and sounded like a very reasonable, cooperative person. In the course of his interview he claimed that 90% of the Syrian rebels were al-Qaeda operatives, praised the US as the greatest country in the world, admitted he had chemical weapons and then encouraged the US to feel free to drop by anytime and collect said weapons of mass destruction whenever it was convenient for them.
Now, to be sure, he doesn’t admit to having used these weapons against his people. And there are still many theories floating around as to whether he did or didn’t. The Russians say he didn’t, claiming that they have strong evidence that the attack was propagated by the rebel forces in Syria for the purpose of provoking the West. The US and Western intelligence sources still say Assad used the banned weapons. I don’t know. People and governments tend to protect their own interests – and truth never seems to be at the forefront of those interests.
The most brilliant thing that Assad seems to have accomplished is guaranteeing that he will stay in power. Now that the US has pretty much passed the “bombing option” stage in our relationship, we’ve now entered the “partnering with Assad and Russia to get rid of chemical weapons” stage. And who wants to have a change of Syrian leadership in the middle of collecting and managing chemical weapons? This would be a challenge at any time – I can’t imagine the challenge of collecting these weapons in the middle of an ongoing civil war.
As the violence in Syria continues and as al-Qaeda rebel forces overrun a town near the Turkish border, President Assad has gained time and has proved himself to be a clever politician. We probably won’t hear much more from Obama about a “red line” because the “bottom line” is that the US still doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy. But hey, soon we might be the proud owners of a billion dollars worth of Syrian chemical weapons. And here I was wondering what I would get my friends for Christmas this year…