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Aug 26

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For Assad, clearly, it is some kind of an exit strategy that might allow him to stay in power. I wouldn’t say it’s the best case for him, of course, because he built up this enormous chemical weapons arsenal. And it’s a huge arsenal, largely because [the regime] was aware of threatening people, scaring people, of keeping people in line. In part, it was always meant to be a deterrent against Israel. The feeling was Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel has a much stronger military force. The Syrians always wanted to have something that they thought the Israelis would be scared of.So, he’s giving up all of that. But it seems to be a way of somehow getting the international community to view him as a negotiating partner because, after all, he would have to guarantee the safety of inspectors. He would have to be the guarantor of these agreements, and as such he becomes more clearly recognized as the sovereign authority in Syria.

There may have been some zigs and zags, some sloppy diplomacy, some sloppy statements over the past couple of weeks, but you’re ready to give the president some credit now for where the situation stands right now?I think he salvaged the situation. Look, the whole year has been much too much ad hoc improvisation. There’s been a lot of muddling. But what he has said, what he has done in the last few days, I think, has been smart – where he has taken the Russian proposal seriously and he has clarified what exactly it is he wants to do in Syria. It’s never been entirely clear. And he now, in that speech, made clear we want to deal with chemical weapons. We want to deter their further use. We’re not going for regime change. We’re not trying to solve this problem.

More from GPS: Don’t let Syria distract from Iran And if you focus in on that, he has already achieved some success, right? You already have international public opinion mobilized on this issue. He’s raised awareness on it. And the Syrian government is now saying it will sign the chemical weapons treaty. The Russians are encouraging them to do so…So, they may not do all of it. But you are already much further than you would have been even with strikes. Remember, air strikes don’t destroy chemical weapons. You never try to hit the chemical weapon sites because that would release toxins in the atmosphere. So, the air strikes are purely punitive. This strategy has the possibility within it of actually getting rid of the weapons.