FOR the time being at least, Syria and the region have been spared a conflagration, sending a message loud and clear to hawks the world over: diplomacy should never be abandoned. The American war machine was on battle stations, ready to unleash its lethal power on a country where nearly two and a half years of fratricide have already killed over 100,000 people, with countless injured and maimed, two million rendered homeless and an infrastructure left pulverised. An attack on such a country would have been a tragedy perhaps greater than that inflicted on Baathist Iraq. Then suddenly, a deal was clinched and the world heaved a sigh of relief. Who do we give credit to for diplomacy’s triumph? Undeniably, Russia has played a major role in pre-empting an American strike. Along with Beijing, Moscow from day one has opposed foreign political and military intervention in Syria and called for a diplomatic solution. But then it wasn’t Moscow alone that made Washington dither. Haunted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American public opinion was anything but hawkish about a misadventure in Syria, and even Congress lacked that war mania which gripped it a decade ago over the myth of Iraqi WMDs.
Having denied it for long, the Damascus regime has finally acknowledged that it possesses chemical weapons, agreed to sign the relevant convention and hand over the 1,000 tonnes of CW and precursors to the United Nations for eventual destruction. Syrian Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar called it a victory and thanked Russia for it. However, the handing over of the weapons to the world body and their destruction are an arduous and intricate process, which will require the Syrian government’s cooperation. Given Russia’s role in Saturday’s deal in Geneva, President Bashar al-Assad has no choice but to abide by the treaty. If together America and Russia can agree on Syria, there is no reason why they cannot act jointly to kick-start the Israel-Palestinian peace process and clinch a deal.