To avoid U.S. military strikes, following the agreement signed in Geneva on September 14 by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Syrian President Bashar Assad is going to have to deliver on three non-negotiable demands embedded in the US-Russia deal. If he fails to comply fully with any of these demands, President Obama will proceed with military strikes on a much stronger political footing, both at home and internationally.
First, the Syrians must sign the Chemical Weapons Convention. This is the easy step, as Syria formally filed the appropriate papers with the United Nations on September 13.
Next, they have approximately ten days to submit a complete inventory of all of their chemical weapon stockpiles and all of their CW production facilities and supplies. American, Israeli and Russian intelligence services have their own detailed intelligence on Syria’s CW arsenal, and any attempt by Assad to conceal even a small portion of the stockpiles or production capabilities will be immediately treated as a violation. “If they try to hide more than five percent, we will know,” a U.S. intelligence officer reported.
Third, once the inventory has been submitted and vetted, Syria must allow United Nations inspectors to come in with unfettered access to the entire country. According to one senior U.S. intelligence source, once these three steps have been completed, Syria will have fulfilled 40 percent of the requirements to avert American military strikes.
As the result of a deal struck between President Obama and Senate hawks John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the targets of any American military strikes have been greatly expanded, to include six major Syrian air bases, key command and control nodes and other “high value” targets, including top regime officials. Contrary to John Kerry’s testimony in Congress, the U.S. is committed, under the Obama-McCain-Graham secret deal, to strike a military blow that will greatly benefit the rebels. Russian President Putin was fully aware of this expanded targeting and used this as leverage on Syrian President Assad to get him to agree to the chemical weapons ban and hand-over.
If Syria does comply with these three initial steps, the door will then be open for the larger issue of a Geneva II conference to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The consensus in the U.S. Intelligence Community is that the Syrian rebels are too dominated by hardcore jihadists to be trusted to take over the country, and the American-backed rebel factions are too weak to run Syria on their own. The goal for Washington, of a Geneva II conference is to create a transitional government led by pro-American factions of the opposition and remnants of the Assad regime, including most of the armed forces and intelligence agencies, as well as a significant portion of the Alawite power structure. Such a transitional government would wage a counterinsurgency war against Al Nusra and other Gulf-backed jihadist rebels. This could put the United States in a head-on conflict with Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia.