Syria: A Political U-Turn For the Worse?

Between President Barack Obama’s U-turn at the end of the August over its impending military strike against Syria, and letting the Russians take the reigns over how to handle Syria’s use and possession of chemical weapons; it seems as though America’s foreign policy is all bark and no bite. Although, currently in Geneva talks are underway between the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to discuss the possibility of disarming the Syrian government of its chemical weapons. Yet, it may be suggested that these efforts to stop the bloodshed of civil war in Syria is simply a smokescreen to delay any definitive action on actually ending the conflict, serving both Syrian and Russian interests.

On Saturday 31st August 2013, President Barack Obama made the decision to put on hold its impending military strike against Syria following, “the worst chemical attack of the 21st century”, so to obtain congressional approval. A move that was meant to honour the democratic notion that the American government is made up “of the people, by the people and for the people”. However it simply demonstrated that the White House is capable of stringing together a few pretty words to poorly mask the fact that little is being done to end the conflict in Syria. As a result it, arguably, further damaged the USA’s credibility in doing anything concrete in resolving the Syrian crisis.

Not to mention, though this decision was also met with promises that it would not result in tactical consequences, one reiterated with Obama’s claim that the USA would be “ready to strike whenever we choose”. However, with the majority of ordinary Americans being against a military strike or intervention of sort following the disastrous consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems unlikely that Obama would receive congressional approval for the strike. Thankfully for the Obama administration, this game of ‘cat-and-mouse’ may continue for the foreseeable future, following the Russian government’s proposal of attempting to disarm the Syrian government of its weapons of mass destruction. In the quest of pursuing a more diplomatic solution however, this may lead to nothing more than stalling the civil war in Syria for the next few years, which would mean more devastation in the war-torn country in the mean time. This being because the prospect of actually destroying Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons may take years. With civil war raging on, the ability of the UN inspectors to have full access to all the chemical weapons sites will be close to none. Together with the fact that it is no secret that the West is largely unenthusiastic about launching a military intervention against Syria, puts Assad in a strong position. Whilst leaders in the West stand idly by twiddling their thumbs, chaos and violence continues to unfold in Syria, with Assad watching on, knowing all the while, little is being done to stop him.

Although an unanimous decision was reached at the UN Security Council on the 26th September, 2013, which legally obligates Syria to give up its chemical stockpile. The final draft of the UN resolution on Syria was a much watered down version of what originally intended, at least, by the Western powers. It may seem that Russia has become the dominant power in the UNSC, given that it is the only power to have gotten essentially what it wanted from the resolution: time. With the UN organization, Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, taking the majority of the responsibility on reporting on Syria’s progress of disarming its chemical weapons, a group with no real enforcement powers. It can be argued that in this game of ‘cat-and-mouse’, Assad is gaining the upper hand and plenty of time to work out his next move.