Will The Liberals Ever Learn – Jennifer Rubin/The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Syrian regime engaged in a “chain of misrepresentations . . . to hide the extent of its chemical-weapons work. One year after the West celebrated the removal of Syria’s arsenal as a foreign-policy success, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the regime didn’t give up all of the chemical weapons it was supposed to.” Not even close:
An examination of last year’s international effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons, based on interviews with many of the inspectors and U.S. and European officials who were involved, shows the extent to which the Syrian regime controlled where inspectors went, what they saw and, in turn, what they accomplished. That happened in large part because of the ground rules under which the inspectors were allowed into the country, according to the inspectors and officials. . . .
“Nobody should be surprised that the regime is cheating,” says Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria under President Barack Obama. He says more intrusive inspections are needed.
If this sounds eerily familiar to Iran, it should. In fact, Syria is the quintessential case in which a heinous, totalitarian regime pulls the wool over the West’s eyes. There is much to be learned.
First, the negotiators — Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power — are the last to admit they failed. After “solving” a problem, they are convinced that it has been a great success. After all, they have a paper.
Second, as a result of the foregoing, the West will ignore, deny and hide evidence the other side is cheating. If the other side cheats, they have failed, and besides, they signed an agreement, so why would they cheat? (Honestly, this is how State Department-itis makes smart people act stupidly.)
Third, whereas the West gave up an opportunity to inflict real damage through a military strike, once the regime signs a piece of paper, the chance the West will recapture the will and gain international agreement to do something about the cheating is virtually nil.
Fourth, the weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle, the death of 200,000 people, millions of people made into refugees, international instability and even the return of near-extinct diseases could have been avoided well before the red line, when the administration first uttered the phrase that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go.” With the United States having refused to act early and then erased the red line, Syria could pretty well count on a sweetheart deal and a lot of leeway to cheat. (Remember that Iran did not comply fully with the terms of the Joint Plan of Action and yet the United States made excuses for the regime.)
Fifth, totalitarian regimes will cheat. Period. They nearly always do, and building in plenty of loopholes makes cheating a foregone conclusion. This is the Syrian deal, but it certainly reminds one of the Swiss-cheese Iran deal:
Because the regime was responsible for providing security, it had an effective veto over inspectors’ movements. The team decided it couldn’t afford to antagonize its hosts, explains one of the inspectors, or it “would lose all access to all sites.” And the inspectors decided they couldn’t visit some sites in contested areas, fearing rebels would attack them.
Under the terms of their deployment, the inspectors had access only to sites that the Assad regime had declared were part of its chemical-weapons program. The U.S. and other powers had the right to demand access to undeclared sites if they had evidence they were part of the chemical-weapons program. But that right was never exercised, in part, inspectors and Western officials say, because their governments didn’t want a standoff with the regime.
Finally, our intelligence community does not know as much as our negotiators would like to think:
The big question looming over the whole operation was how forthcoming the regime had been about the scope of its chemical-weapons work. As the inspections were beginning, in private briefings for U.N. and congressional officials, U.S. intelligence agencies gave the regime an informal grade of B-plus for truthfulness, according to U.S. and U.N. officials.
Central Intelligence Agency analysts initially thought the declaration matched what they believed the regime had. Some intelligence officials at the Pentagon were more skeptical, believing that Syria may have squirreled away a secret reserve, defense officials say.
But, of course, negotiators assured us that that we would know if Syria cheated. Well, not for a very long time, it turned out.
All this was entirely foreseeable when the administration evidenced a lack of determination to use force if need be. Negotiators become so invested in their work that enforcement becomes lax (Oh, it’s just a low-level person cheating!) and our adversary runs rampant. With time, the West loses interest (What, you want to go to war with Assad?!) and our adversary slips the noose. Keep this in mind when Kerry bellows at critics of the Iran deal who suggest he has given Iran opportunity to cheat while binding the West’s hands and depriving it of leverage. The difference, however, is that Iran is far more sophisticated and dangerous, the regime is not at risk (the Green Movement failed with nary a peep from the United States) and we are talking about nuclear weapons — which can be put on intercontinental ballistic missiles.