President Obama and President Putin’s first great nonproliferation triumph, Bashar Assad’s surrendering of hundreds of tons of chemical weapons, has not aged all that well: It offered Assad a boost in international legitimacy (temporarily, actually, making the international community committed to his government’s survival) and hasn’t prevented him from improvising new unconventional barbaric weapons like chlorine bombs. The upside it that it’s so far prevented Assad from using chemical weapons repeatedly on a large scale, which would allow him to kill with more efficiency than shelling and bombing. But we won’t know for a while whether this really helped, since chemical weapons would likely be a last resort, due to the international reaction their repeated use would draw.
That remains a real worry because Western governments think he might have kept some of his weapons. And that worry will be heightened by a report from Reuters that the international organization that implemented the deal, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has detected the presence of sarin and nerve gas at a Syrian chemical-weapons facility. The faulty implementation of the agreement isn’t the OPCW’s fault, really, it’s the fault of the countries that agreed to this deal and didn’t force Assad to really play by the rules.