I think he salvaged the situation. Look, the whole year has been much too much ad hoc improvisation. There’s been a lot of muddling. But what he has said, what he has done in the last few days, I think, has been smart – where he has taken the Russian proposal seriously and he has clarified what exactly it is he wants to do in Syria. It’s never been entirely clear. And he now, in that speech, made clear we want to deal with chemical weapons. We want to deter their further use. We’re not going for regime change. We’re not trying to solve this problem.And if you focus in on that, he has already achieved some success, right? You already have international public opinion mobilized on this issue. He’s raised awareness on it. And the Syrian government is now saying it will sign the chemical weapons treaty. The Russians are encouraging them to do so…So, they may not do all of it. But you are already much further than you would have been even with strikes. Remember, air strikes don’t destroy chemical weapons. You never try to hit the chemical weapon sites because that would release toxins in the atmosphere. So, the air strikes are purely punitive. This strategy has the possibility within it of actually getting rid of the weapons.
Who knows indeed. The thing to remember about Syria is, people say well, there are good rebels and bad rebels. The most important thing as far as I can tell having studied this fairly carefully is nobody knows. There are hundreds of different rebel groups in Syria. It appears that this rebellion against the al-Assad government has been quite decentralized, in many cases spontaneous, in some cases organized.For two years, the Turkish government has been trying to in some way organize these rebel groups, create a government in exile, create a unified command structure. That has been difficult. The CIA has been trying to do it. It has proved difficult. So, the real truth is we don’t know. Some of these rebel groups are clearly very nasty Islamist types. Others may be more democratically minded.
The one thing I think is important to keep in mind is that there has always been a sectarian dimension to this conflict, because there is a sectarian dimension to the regime. It is a minority Alawite regime. And the regime has always been very tough on the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist groups, things like that. Remember in 1982, they had the Hama massacre. So, the regime has been sectarian. The opposition has been sectarian for two decades now.