The Syrian civil war is in its endgame, and the ‘political solution’ that the leaders of the Western democracy talk about is in sight. That is one meaning of the appalling images from the chemical weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta. In 2011, Western intelligence agencies unanimously declared that Bashar al-Assad was finished, and that it was only a matter of time before he fell. Today, Assad, with massive Russian and Iranian support, has regained control over most of Syria.
After the chemical attack on Eastern Ghouta, Arab news sites claimed that the Jaish-el-Islam militia had announced that it was willing to negotiate a ceasefire. This is another meaning to be found in the images of children gasping for air in a bombed-out hospital. Assad knows he can do whatever he wants, and use any method to finish off his enemies. He has known this since he and his supporters called the humanitarians’ bluff in 2013, after Syrian forces killed dozens and injured hundreds at Idlib, probably with sarin.
In 2012, President Obama had declared that the use of chemical weapons was the ‘red line’ that would trigger an American intervention. After Idlib, Obama’s failure to follow words with deeds deprived the United States of its most useful weapon, deterrence. Instead, Obama struck a deal with Assad and Putin for the removal of chemical weapons from the Syrian war. This turned the United States into a silent partner in the Syrian bloodbath, and Obama into a no-drama enabler of war criminals.
Containment, the strategic wisdom of the president who was supposed to be the smartest guy in the room, turns out to have been strategic stupidity. More than 400,000 people have died in Syria. Millions have fled, causing instability in the neighboring states of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.