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Wow! That was quick

Didn't the agreement reported between the U.S. and Russia on ridding Syria of its chemical weapons happen fast? Faster than anyone could have expected. Perhaps faster than Assad expected.

Of course, we don't know what's in the agreement, or in any side agreements. Do the U.S. and Russia have congruent interests here of a high order? In Russia's case: Do they fear their own Jihadis seizing these weapons and moving them back to Russia?

Has Russia taken over the Syrian bargaining position? Will the Assad government be required to comply? This also suggests, but is it true: Iran is in agreement with the Russian position? But...we'll see.

Times report: "U.S. and Russia Reach Deal...."

The Wash Post has the framework agreement.

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Our posts must have waved as they passed in the cloud. One notes that they both end on the same cautious note – must be a generational thing!

Now comes the real hard part. I read the times article and the "opposition" is upset and angry about the deal. I do suspect that Putin is correct in that they have, at a minimum, access to chemical weapons and might well have already used them. They are indicating that they will not allow inspectors through and they are sketchy on whether they will allow inspectors to view their supplies.

Security will be a major issue as the jihadist are not interested in any type of cease-fire.

The Russians are far more concerned with jihadists as they can wreak total havoc with Russia provinces. The threat of jihadist as far as the US is concerned is much more remote.

But good news all the way around. If the US can now leverage and control Israel in the same way that Russia can with Iran and Syria, there might well be better relations in that part of the world and who knows; emergent democracies and secular thinking.

 

The opposition, jihadi and not, are angry because the U.S. is not going to bomb. I think they were hoping to take advantage of a U.S. attack to retake territory and to make advances in areas where Assad's foces would be lying low in light of an attack. But yes, I think there's a good chance that some groups have some supplies of chemical weapons and/or the makings thereof. We'll see which way this agreement swings the balance over-all, if, in fact, it comes to fruition.

One unnerving possibility: if at some point the framework falls apart, will the U.S. Congress vote to allow a military strike? Will Obama give the go ahead?

If this agreement does not work, I think Obama will gain more support  from Congress for U.S. military strikes on Syrian chemical production and storage sites as well as airfields.  I myself was conflicted on the controversy over U.S. military action, but Obama in his short speech finally convinced me of the legitimacy of his proposed action.  I hope this U.S. - Russia agreement works.  If it doesn't, I now support directing cruise missiles on *military* targets --- as long as (1) no American boots on the ground in Syria and (2) no American planes in the air over Syria.  I think Russia realizes that Obama means business, and, as also noted above, Russia does not want Syrian chemical weapons finding their way into far-flung areas of Russia to be used against Russian armed forces. 

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.