U.S. and Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Arms – Kieran Austin

In the midst of a hugely controversial and tense crisis in Syria surrounding the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups and less than a week after President Barack Obama issued an address regarding the anticipated military strikes against Assad’s regime, the United States and Russia agreed to a plan to remove or destroy Syria’s supply of chemical weapons and materials. This settlement was formed at a meeting in Geneva lead by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. This also occurred in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed for the New York Times where he condemned the plan to carry out a military strike on Syria. For many this solved a few of the major problems with the issue. Firstly, it confirmed that Putin’s gestures to cooperate with the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal were in fact sincere and not a ploy to stall American strikes against Syria, Russia’s ally. Secondly, had the United States listened to Putin without the conference in Geneva, the government could be perceived as cowardly and making insubstantial threats. With the success of the meeting, this made it a multi-party agreement that is far less of a cop-out for the government. In historical perspective, this is actually quite the monumental settlement, as past agreements to remove chemical weapons (Libya ten years ago and Saddam Hussein in 1991) have had much longer timetables. As Amy E. Smithson stated: “They are cramming what would probably be five or six years’ worth of work into a period of several months.” This adds a lot of tension to the situation, being a country still fully immersed in civil war and quite the dangerous place to be intervening. On top of all that, Assad still has yet to comply with the settlement, and until he responds with the required list of its chemical weapons and production areas, which is demanded to be within a week. However, nothing remains certain, as relinquishing his chemical weapons could signal Assad’s demise: Both Hussein and Qaddafi were deposed shortly after their weapons were removed.

Where this ties into our current studies is somewhat subtle. In relation to the extent of government powers, it definitely represents a different facet of the reach of the American government. While many focus on the individual rights of citizens of the U.S., the controversy of whether or not President Obama is justified in using military force in Syria is an extension of this argument. Though he held a vote in Congress about the proposed strikes, many would argue that a strike could unwillingly lead a country ready to be free of war for the first time in decades right back into war in the Middle East. If Assad does comply with the agreement, it could lessen the severity of the crisis slightly, at least as far as the United States’ government is concerned. Whether one agrees with the way this has been handled by President Obama, this represents the first time in more than a decade that the United States is possibly rethinking the Bush Doctrine – maybe a sign of change in American foreign policy.

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Gordon, Michael R. . “U.S. and Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Arms – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/world/middleeast/syria-talks.html?pagewanted=all>.

Broad, William J. , and David E. Sanger. “If History Is Any Measure, the Clock Is Ticking – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/world/middleeast/if-history-is-any-measure-the-clock-is-ticking.html?ref=world&_r=0>.

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