Syria for Students: Part 2

2 minute read


In the last two weeks a happenstance agreement on Syria's chemical weapons has changed the discussion from 'what should we do' to 'what just happened'. Here's another attempt to break down the underlying questions and arguments.  I do not think we will see again the kind of policy debate we saw around possible strikes, so my review of news and events here has more information than arguments.

What happened?

Sept 9th - John Kerry's rhetorical comment

Sept 13th - Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Sept 14th - Deal reached

Sept 20th - Syria submits inventory [NYT]

What does the deal do?

Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will draft procedures for CW disposal and verification

Includes destruction of production equipment and delivery systems

UN Security Council resolution with regular reviews of Syria

Will impose Chapter VII measures if Syria noncompliant

Syria must give access to OPCW and UN


Expected to submit listing of all items today, Sept. 21

Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November

Destruction of production and mixing/fillingby November

Elimination of all CW and CW equipment by first half of 2014

Winners and Losers [NYT, FP]

Solves Obama's dilemma.

Gold star for Putin.

Assad buys time.

Did US threat of "incredibly small" strike make Syria agree to concessions?

Rebels lose hope of US strike on Assad.

Winners and losers depends on reference point [Drezner]

Further Information on Strikes

The UN Report

Found evidence of Sarin in samples of environment and patients

Does not attribute blame

Of 5 impact sites, 2 gave likely trajectories.

HRW mapped the trajectories, suggesting they originated from a Republican Guard brigade

Theories on Assad's usage of CW [PV@G]

Signal toughness

Signal disregard for international norms

Remove uncertainty about USA intervention

German intelligence attributes attack to regime but not to Assad [Guardian]

What's next?

Syria's deputy prime minister says that the conflict is a stalemate

Assad will call for a ceasefirewith international observation [Guardian]

Government's position: end of external intervention, peaceful political process

Rebel position: Assad ouster and transitional government.

Rebel group conflict - Free Syrian Army fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

jihadist groups showing greater deference to local population

Jihadist groups


Timeline will be difficult, especially in wartime [CFR Stares]

What else?

Putin made his case to the American public through a NYT op-ed

With many offering counter points [FP, WP]

Putin blames foreign weapons supplied to opposition

But Russia is source of 71% of Syria's arms imports

Putin calls for multilateral approach

But Russia has blocked UN statements on humanitarian concerns

Putin bemoans America's tendency to intervene

But Russia still occupies 20% of Georgia

Putin says "we must not forget that God created us equal"

Does not apply to homosexuals in Russia

BBC has a nice looking overview of the conflict starting with protests