We’ve just seen the future of the Iran nuclear arms deal, and it ain’t pretty.
It looks much like the deal we signed with Syria on chemical weapons, which was widely applauded three years ago as the epitome of smart diplomacy, but is unraveling.
You may remember how in the summer of 2013, America was on the verge of joining the war in Syria after dictator Bashar al-Assad was caught using chemical bombs — crossing President Obama’s “red line.” But instead, we joined hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin and signed a deal with Assad intended to peacefully remove chemical stockpiles from the regime’s hands.
Why’d we back off? In a new book, “The Iran Wars,” the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon reports that Tehran threatened to end secret negotiations with Obama’s diplomats if the United States took military action against its ally Assad. For Obama, those talks were apparently more important than enforcing his own red line.
The deal: We wouldn’t bomb Syria, and Assad would sign a global convention banning the use of chemical arms.
Under the watchful eye of the international community, he’d remove Syria’s chemical stockpiles and destroy all its chemical plants.
Administration officials crowed about their smart diplomacy. Even Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu was complimentary: He hailed the “good” Syria deal while warning against signing a “bad” Iran deal.
And indeed, UN inspectors oversaw an unprecedented operation, which in record time destroyed Syria’s chemical arms and infrastructure, and securely disposed of toxic agents at sea. America
financed most of the operation, while other countries pitched in. The UN agency in charge, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, won a Nobel Peace Prize.
It was a complex and difficult operation, but problem solved. And without war.
Except it wasn’t.
This week’s UN report examined nine separate cases of post-deal chemical attacks in Syria (other chemical attacks are still taking place but are yet to be investigated). Two such attacks, with industrial chlorine, were conducted by Assad’s army. One, a mustard-gas affair, was blamed on ISIS. The other six incidents remain under investigation.
Oh, and a separate OPCW report, leaked this week to Foreign Policy magazine, details how traces of chemical precursors were discovered in several sites whose existence Syria never bothered to report in the first place.
That’s “raising new questions about whether Damascus has abided by its commitment to destroy all its [chemical] armaments,” according to the magazine.
No kidding. For decades, chemical warfare was deeply ingrained in Syria’s war doctrine. Syrian generals and their Iranian backers never gave up on it, conventions be damned.
But chemical weapons are a “barbaric tool, repugnant to the conscience of mankind,” according to our UN ambassador, Samantha Power. Their use by the Syrian regime challenges the entire chemical convention, she wrote in a statement this week. And, Power added, she expects “swift action” by a unified UN Security Council to punish Syria.
Won’t happen. Sure, next week Security Council members will study the report. Some will propose sanctions against Syria, or even call for sending Assad or his henchmen to be tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But Assad’s ally, Russia, is widely expected to veto any such proposal.
So after we “took away” the dictator’s most lethal weapons, Assad keeps and uses them. And keeps them for future reference. And gets away with murder.
Just like his counterpart in North Korea, who signed deals to dismantle his nuclear program, which he’s been violating ever since. Dictators will sign deals to placate us and then cheat. It’s what they do.
Unless, of course, we prepare in advance a potent punishment for violations. In Syria we didn’t. The US military, by design, has a supporting role there. The Security Council is deadlocked. Yes, name and shame, but we have no other serious tools.
Similarly, we (prematurely) took the military option off the table to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. All we can do now is pray the mullahs keep their end of a diplomatic deal, and that they won’t cheat — any more than they already are, of course.
Pray very, very hard, that is.
Source: New York Post