With Obama’s initial punt to Congress backfiring terribly, as there was no way the president’s Syrian attack proposal would garner the required majority in the House, the time came for damage control. And the White House, ever expedient, decided to spin the backtracking as Obama’s original idea from the offset, and make it seem that a diplomatic “solution” in which the Syrian chemical weapons were contained was the whole point of the intervention. This, of course, ignores some quite blatantly obvious admissions by the White House itself, namely that the ultimate goal was always regime change in Syria:
Rice: “Our overarching goal is to end the underlying conflict through a negotiated, political transition in which Assad leaves power” #Syria
— White House Live (@WHLive) September 9, 2013
Oops. Nonetheless, stuck in a corner, that was the White House’ story, and they are sticking with it.
What is ironic, is that almost concurrently with the shift in narrative, others promptly came up demanding credit for the “diplomatic “solution.”
Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, first put the idea to John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and unnamed Russian officials in August. Russia was initially skeptical of his suggestion that Moscow assumed responsibility for Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.
A Twitter message from Mr Sikorski revealed he was “pleased that Russia has taken up Poland’s suggestion of her role in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal”. He added that he had “proposed the ultimatum” to John Kerry, the US secretary of state, after getting the support of the European People’s Party, a grouping in the European parliament, during a meeting on Saturday.
Officials from the grouping said that Mr Sikorski had met Mr Kerry in Vilnius to promote the inspections.
Another tweet contained a link to a news story on how Russia was now urging Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent destruction, and so avoid a military strike.
In a television interview on Tuesday night, the Polish foreign minister said at first that Russia had failed to appreciate the proposal.
“But now they have changed their mind, and that is good because in Syria there are no good solutions,” he added. “I’m pleased we now have a faint path that could help us solve the problem of Syria’s chemical weapon’s arsenal without the use of force.”
And now, not surprisingly, Russia jumps at the opportunity to take credit for what it deems its response to a tiny slip uttered by John Kerry on Monday:
- RUSSIA HAS GIVEN THE UNITED STATES ITS PLAN FOR PLACING SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL CONTROL -INTERFAX CITES SOURCE
In other words: what was sure to be a war with potential unpredictable escalation now that the Mediterranean is a parking lot for US and Russian warships, has devolved into a political pissing contest. The good news is that no people will have to die as a result, and no matter how it is spun, Putin is still the winner if only for the time being: after all it is his gas, not Qatar’s, that will heat Europe this winter.
As for a potential re-escalation? Well, Obama can still push the button. Although with every passing day, the reverse Cuban Missile Crisis, in which it was Russia’s turn to call the US bluff this time, seems increasingly less likely.