Meet the Next Peace Laureate
By Rachel Ehrenfeld, Amb. Henry F. Cooper
Sunday, September 15th, 2013 @ 4:34AM
On September 12, two days before the announcement on the agreement between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons–an agreement that has yet to be approved by Bashar Assad–Pravda reported that Vladimir Putin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Sergei Komkov, President of the Russian Foundation for Education, who must have known already that the agreement was in Putin’s pocket.
Komkov’s letter to the Nobel Committee praises Putin’s contribution to the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Syria, arguing that Putin showed his commitment to peace in practice: “Being the leader of one of the leading countries of the world, he makes every effort to maintain peace and tranquility in his own state and actively contributes to the peaceful resolution of all conflicts arising on the planet.” This gave the recommendation the special oomph to justify the nomination of this human rights abuser, who has been busy oppressing his own people and giving aid and succor to criminals like Bashar Assad and the Iranian Mullahs.
According to the agreement reached in Geneva on Saturday, Syria has one week to provide a complete list of its chemical assets and their locations. “The first international inspection of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile” will take place in November, and the destruction or removal of the weapons should be completed by the middle of 2014. The speed at which 1,000 tons of “sulfur, mustard gas and the ingredients for sarin and the nerve agent VX” is unprecedented.
An expert on chemical weapons at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies commented: “This situation has no precedent. They are cramming what would probably be five or six years’ worth of work into a period of several months, and they are undertaking this in an extremely difficult security environment due to the ongoing civil war.”
If Assad doesn’t comply, then the UN Security Council will take punitive action, that is, if the Russians (who oppose any military intervention), and/or Chinese don’t veto. While Obama maintains U.S. military intervention is still on the table, he’s not taken seriously. At the time of this writing, Assad has said nothing that affirms the viability of the plan.
With the help of the Obama administration, the New York Times and others have candy-coated the story, saying this agreement is the outcome of Obama’s “credible” threat of military action. Accordingly, the administration and the media will no doubt start talking about Russo-American comity and call the present turn of events a “win-win” situation for both Obama and Putin.
However, giving Assad a reprieve from foreign military action virtually guarantees the continuation of his regime. The Syrian opposition has already declared it will not stop fighting Assad, and jihadists from all over the world will join their fight, collect arms the Syrian army leaves behind and use them for attacks in Jordan, Lebanon and beyond.
How very convenient for the do-nothing U.S. administration. We will not have to intervene in Syria, the sanctions on Iran (which have already been relaxed) will be gradually removed, allowing it to improve its economy, and build its long-range missiles and nuclear bombs.
By signing this agreement, the U.S. lost whatever credibilty it still had in the region. The future of the Eastern Mediterranean, delegated to Putin and his ally Iran, doesn’t promise much peace.
In the meantime, Putin will likely join the list of notable laureates of peaceful intentions such as the late international terrorist Yasser Arafat and American president Barak Hussein Obama. Don’t be surprised if the Nobel Committee also nominates the alleged Iranian “reformer” president Hassan Rowhani to share the Nobel Peace Prize with Putin. Hard to think of a better match.
A Plot for a Comedy or Tragedy?
Of course, whatever the President had planned previously was scuttled when Assad said “yes” to Russia’s reformatted version of Secretary Kerry’s off-hand suggestion in London that we would not attack Syria if it transferred its chemical weapons to an appropriate international authority. The next shoe to drop was Russia’s condition that this agreement could be concluded only if the U.S. formally agreed not to attack Syria. And now, the President and others seeking to make the best of the current situation claim that it was the President’s tough policy and his promise of an “unbelievably small” and “limited” attack so threatened Assad that he immediately agreed, giving us the possibility for a diplomatic solution justifying an indefinite delay of his request that congress approve striking Syria. (Oh, by the way, Assad has since added that, for him to follow through on his part of the deal, we must stop supporting the rebels, too … surprise!)
And that former KGB “peacemaker” Vladimir Putin now offers his advice to the American people via an OpEd in the New York Times-joining most Americans in urging against an attack on Syria (for different reasons, of course) while urging that the United Nations should be the arbiter of all things international (remember that Russia and China wield veto power–and have previously rejected U.S. efforts to get UN support against Russia’s ally, Syria). And he concludes by chastising the U.S. for its claims of being an “exceptional” nation–which it irrefutably is.
Whatever … Jake Tapper, CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent, quotes a White House official as saying that Putin now owns the Syrian Chemical (CW) weapons disarmament process:
“He [Putin] put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it. That’s good. That’s the best possible reaction. He’s fully invested in Syria’s CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike–which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”
So now the White House welcomes Russia’s leadership–and I think in matters that go well beyond Syria to pretty much most of the Middle East, where our influence must be at the lowest level in history’s ebb and flow since World War II. In an effort to regain some influence in this unfolding scene while congress drops its debate over a limited strike on Syria, Secretary Kerry is arguing for effective verification of whatever evolves from the negotiation that the White House claims Putin now owns. Indeed, effective verification and enforcement measures should be required to conclude such an agreement that under the best of conditions would take years to implement.
Forgive me if I don’t expect any significant result in the near future, although I fully expect Secretary Kerry will put a happy face on his continuing meetings in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and UN representatives, with tough words while kicking the can further down the road. In particular, I recommend we read the fine print of the breaking news that the U.S. and Russia have reached “agreement” before applauding too loudly. I wonder if they also discussed Russia’s transfer of S-300 missile defense interceptors to Syria and how that helps in achieving a diplomatic solution to ridding Syria of its chemical weapons. But I digress.
While hoping for the best, I am skeptical of how this initiative will turn out to yield any advantage for the U.S. The morning after the President’s speech, Dana Milbank aptly described President “Obama’s Syria Muddle” in the Washington Post. I wish that was the only muddle.
While there are a plethora of later articles chronicling an incredible plot no one could imagine or believe except possibly as a comedy on the way to becoming a tragedy, I recommend a couple that summarize the situation: Charles Krauthammer’s article in Friday’s Washington Post, “The Fruits of Epic Incompetence” and my colleague, from my days of negotiating with the Soviets, Dan Gallington, in U.S. News, “Putin and His Thugs are Besting Obama.” As was the case in those days, Dan has recommendations for next steps that would be in the U.S. interest–but I’m not hopeful that the current powers that be can hold a candle to the Reagan defense and foreign policy team, that would never have found itself in this position, anyway.
Dangers Made Worse
Indeed, our current situation is no laughing matter. Consider briefly a couple of previously identified dangers made worse by the recent events. In my last email, I pointed out four issues that were important considerations in the matters then being discussed in congress:
Russia has stationed warships in the Mediterranean along with ours this posture sets a stage for possible miscalculations with horrific consequences. Major wars have begun because of such miscalculations.
Almost on cue was a RiaNovosti report that Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters that an unannounced Israeli launch of ballistic missiles as part of a joint Israeli-U.S. missile defense exercise had created conditions that came close to triggering a Russian response that could have led to just such an escalation–Russia had placed its General Staff’s command center on high alert. He referred to this event as “playing with fire” and recalled a 1995 meteorological launch that Russian authorities interpreted as a possible launch on Russia. As he said, “The Mediterranean is a powder keg. A match is enough for fire to break out and possibly spread not only to neighboring states but to other world regions as well.” (I think I recall an advance announcement of this U.S.-Israeli test, but that does not alter the possibility of miscalculation that could lead to major horrific consequences.) Not to worry, President Obama promised “flexibility” in dealing with missile defense issues if Putin would lay off his pressure until after last November’s election.
Then there’s China’s help. The September 9 Investor’s Business Daily reported that China has brought a warship and troops into the Mediterranean adding more unhelpful seasoning to the stew. This story was verified the following day, e.g., see Examiner.com, which reports that the CNS (Chinese Navy Ship) Jing Jangshan is capable of embarking 1,000 Marines along with their necessary equipment consisting of helicopters, armored fighting vehicles, boats and landing craft, the Chinese amphibious assault ship was initially slated to “observe” elements of the U.S. 6th Fleet’s flotilla poised to strike the Assad regime, as well as the warships of the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean Squadron.
Russia and China can be expected to work together–and cannot be trusted to join happily with NATO operations to keep the peace. The CNS Jing Jangshan and its 1000 marines join at least four Russian warships and an estimated 3,000 Russian Marines already in the area of operation. Their joint ground force capability conceivably could equal two combat regiments.
Al Qaeda and other jihadists are present in Syria–the only dispute has to do with how potent they are. Whatever the numbers, we can expect linkage with al-Qaeda/jihadists outside of Syria–including within the U.S. On last Sunday’s ABC This Week, former FBI Director Robert Mueller said he was most worried about viable terrorist threats from aviation, cyber and weapons of mass destruction threats–worldwide and, as he has said publically before, including from Americans who have trained abroad as jihadists and returned to the U.S.
The U.S. is supplying armaments to the Syrian Rebels, fulfilling a commitment made many months ago. The September 9 the Washington Post and September 12 USA Today report that these shipments, which have been underway for a couple of months, are headed to the rebels who are fighting with Assad’s regime–some of whom probably have ties to al-Qaeda or other jihadists. And remember that Assad is allied with Russia and China. So, this also adds to the mix challenging the diplomats now playing a tune being orchestrated by Russia’s Prime Minister Putin.
Iran, an ally of Russia and Syria (and China and North Korea…) and, along with its ally Syria, an enemy of some of the Arab states, has sworn to destroy Israel (the little Satan) and America (the Great Satan).
The Jerusalem Post reports that this is a good news/badnews story, but more bad than good–good if Assad lives up to the deal to get rid of his chemical weapons, but bad if Assad remains in power (judged to be more likely) because of his strategic alliance with Iran–which can be expected to play on both sides. Israel has a dilemma of course in trying to distinguish between two devils it knows … but the “rebels” actually could turn out to be worse.
The constant is that the survivor will be aligned with Iran when it comes to Israel and the United States. This is different than selecting “better the devil you know” than the one you don’t. And as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned recently, “Syria has become Iran’s testing ground…. Iran is watching and it wants to see what would be the reaction on the use of chemical weapons.”
Iranian Supreme Leader hosts Syria’s Assad in Tehran
While this episode proceeds, we allow our strategic systems to atrophy while Russia and China build more strategic arms and modernize the ones they have–all the while serving the cacophony of proliferation that fuels such conflicts.
Nothing new here, except recent reports that the Defense Department cannot afford improving its homeland ballistic missile defenses against Iran–even as it considers possible additional sites to protect the East Coast from Iranian ballistic missiles, per congress’ direction.
Regrettably, the President’s address and subsequent events have offered little real clarity–indeed it and subsequent events have mostly added confusing rhetoric. The powers that be have kicked the can down the road at best–but perhaps at considerable cost to American leadership in the international arena, which our president likes to talk about, and the defense of our homeland. And, if anything, the world is a more dangerous place, with evil forces against us more likely to challenge our perceived weakness than they were even a few weeks ago.
So, stay tuned-and try to interpret the meaning of the “uncertain trumpet” in Washington. Have a nice weekend!
High Frontier Plans
We at High Frontier will continue to stick to our knitting, by seeking as quickly as we can to inform “the powers that be” of existential threats to the American people–as we have discussed in our emails for many months–and to urge them to “provide for the common defense” as charged by the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. Hopefully, key federal authorities and members of congress will soon begin to deal more effectively with the existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse.
Key initiatives are to urge the Washington powers that be toundertake both the Shield Act and efforts to enhance our ballistic missile defenses, especially for our citizens on the East Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, where they are completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf–or from Latin America, e.g., Venezuela.
But frankly, we have come to doubt that Washington will act in an expeditious way. Thus, we are also taking the message to grass roots America. Our local and state authorities need to understand these issues and what they might do if their federal representatives continue to fail “to provide for the common defense.” The end of this month, I will be in the Florida panhandle, seeking to advise the folks there of their absolute vulnerability against ballistic missiles launched from the Gulf of Mexico–and what can be done about it if only their representatives do their jobs.
In particular we will be observing that it would be wise for the Florida state legislature to follow Maine’s initiative and harden the electric power grid in Florida, while holding the Washington authorities accountable for their oath to provide for the common defense. Hopefully, in joining such an effort, other states will be encouraged for follow them.