“We want to join the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons,” and with those words, attributed to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, an American entry into Syria’s civil war may be averted — but there remain serious obstacles to peace.

In statements evocative of those made before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the threat of force was necessary to apply pressure to Syria. It appears that the White House will continue to push for authorization to bomb Syria, after an American-French-British conference call that promised preparation for “a full range of responses.”

Russia, meanwhile, says there can be no deal unless foreign powers stop threatening its allies in Damascus.

President Obama wants any agreement to be authorized by the U.N. Security Council, and there we find more trouble still. Russia wants to author its own proposal, which would lead to Syria’s chemical weapons disarmament, but Moscow does not want Damascus blamed for any previous chemical weapons attacks. That sticks in the craw of the Obama administration, which has argued that the point of the exercise is not to embolden other bad actors in the Middle East (hint hint: Iran).

If peace is to be had — and it’s difficult to call the status quo of an ongoing civil war “peace” — both Russia and the West will have to give something up. Moscow cannot play the role of puppet master and audience — some check by other powers is to be expected. Meanwhile, the White House may have to content itself that the destruction of Syrian chemical stockpiles is a good thing, the risks of a proxy war are too great, and America’s obsession with Iran may be less important, for now.

Sources: BBC, Reuters

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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