US President Barack Obama did not wait for the Kerry-Lavrov agreement of Saturday, Sept. 14, for the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons, to demonstrate its feasibility. The next day, he jumped in to tell Tehran that “there’s the potential for diplomatic solutions to arms standoffs,” in an interview with ABC TV.
“The Iranians understand that their pursuit of a nuclear weapon is a far larger issue for us than the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said. “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck [Syria] to think we won’t strike Iran.”
But that is exactly what they have understood from the way he backed out of a US military strike on Syria – and so have Moscow and Damascus.
Obama also revealed that he has exchanged letters with the new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, but did not reveal their content. He added: He (Rouhani) understands the potential for a diplomatic solution to his country’s disputed nuclear program but will not “suddenly make it easy.”
In Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry was mindful of the torrent of criticism landing on the deal he struck with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva Saturday – both at home and in the Middle East. The Syrian rebels and their backers accuse the US of betraying and ditching them in mid-war.
After meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for four hours, Kerry came out with a statement that Syrian violations of its commitment under the chemical weapons convention and its reuse of this weapon of mass destruction would make its government liable for a UN Security Council action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows military force.
debkafile’s sources note that this phrasing does not appear in the text of the US-Russian accord concluded Saturday or Geneva; not does it match the version of the accord presented by the Russian foreign minister. So a rejoinder from Moscow will likely not be long coming.
In reply to complaints that the chemical accord has done nothing to stop the Syrian civil war and the massive bloodshed now in its third year, Kerry said it was only the first step and diplomacy would continue to be pursued to bring the war to an end.
The US Secretary, who left for Paris after his long meeting with Nentanyahu, said he would be updating four allied foreign ministers on his accord with Lavrov – his British and French and also his Saudi and Turkish opposite numbers. Riyadh and Ankara, like Jerusalem, have so far chosen to keep their doubts and objections quiet.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said alongside Kerry that Syria must be stripped of chemical weapons to make region safer. But for diplomacy to have a chance to work it must be coupled with a credible military threat.
Avigdor Lieberman, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, commented that after Damascus submits its inventory of chemical stockpiles and other sites next week, as Kerry has promised, it should be compared with the lists drawn up by Israeli intelligence.
debkafile: This suggestion is naïve. The Syrian inventory will first go to Moscow and after it is confirmed, referred to Washington. The Obama administration will refrain from any action that might torpedo the deal with Moscow at this early stage by questioning Syrian and Russian veracity.
Despite all the words of assurance pouring out of Washington about the credible military option in place both for Syria and Iran, the Obama administration is determined not to let Israel or any other Middle East critic upset its diplomatic momentum – either for Syria's chemical weapons or Iran's nuclear drive.