A Breakthrough — for Russia

by Bing West

Here is the take from Fox News: “The possible breakthrough pertains to a proposal, floated by Secretary of State John Kerry and then formally put forward by the Russians, to have the Assad regime turn over its chemical weapons to international control.”

“We will pursue this diplomatic track,” Obama told Fox News. “I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a non-military way.”

If that’s from Fox, wait until NBC and the NYT embellish along these lines: “In a brilliant diplomatic move, Kerry persuaded the Russians into pressuring Syria, under Obama’s looming threat of a devastating strike, to relinquish all chemical weapons. The Obama administration, under criticism from the radical right, has emerged triumphant from a high-stakes poker game played before a world audience.”

What actually happened, of course, was that Putin threw a political lifeline to Obama. The president’s proposal for an “unbelievably small war” was certain to be defeated in the House. He faced humiliation. Putin rescued him.

Putin’s payoff? Since 1973, Russia has been shut out of the greater Middle East. Now Putin is a major player, his stature higher than Obama. The U.S. goal for two years has been the removal of the Assad regime, in order to cut off Iran from the Arab hinterland and its Hezbollah cat’s paw in Lebanon. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others, encouraged by a vacillating U.S., swung all-in against Assad.

Now Obama has been checkmated by Putin. In order to remove the chemical weapons – about 5 percent of Assad’s military capabilities, however gruesome – Obama and the “international community” must negotiate with Assad. Putin has ensured that his client stays in power, while Obama has lost the greater game – eliminating Iran’s fort inside the greater Middle East.

Russia gains prestige and influence. Assad gains security. Iran secures its links.

The U.S. loses global influence and leaves its longstanding friends in the region angry and frustrated. The mainstream press praises Kerry and endorses Mr. Obama’s speech tonight as sound and reasonable. 

Make no mistake. This is a serious setback for the U.S., all because the Obama administration lacks coherence and commonsense in carrying out foreign policy.