President Barack Obama's botched policies now make it necessary for Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power so that the Syrian strongman can preside over the dismantling of the country's chemical weapons, says former Defense Department official Doug Feith.
"Assad may have pulled off the most successful use of chemical weapons in history," Feith writes in The Wall Street Journal.
For two years before Syria's chemical-weapons attack last month, Obama called for Assad's ouster.
"No longer. In one month, Assad has risen from outlaw butcher to partner in disarmament," says Feith, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
The United States policy in Syria doesn't center on the regime's mass murder or neutralizing the influence of Iran and Hezbollah, Feith notes.
"Rather, with Russian President Vladimir Putin's help, U.S. policy under President Obama is concentrating on chemical-weapons disarmament," he says.
"President Obama has now created a U.S. interest in preserving Assad in power. This means Assad must stay, not go, for he is needed to negotiate and implement an arrangement to destroy Syria's chemical weapons."
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels feel betrayed,
and Iran sees an Obama administration willing to go to great lengths to avoid military conflict, Feith says.
"The Russians have been promoted from reprehensible accomplices in Assad's evil to indispensable peace negotiators — while they remain accomplices to that evil."
Dictators worldwide will see it serves their purposes to have chemical weapons and even use them, Feith says.
"They can then be traded away at a very high price under the right circumstances. They can serve as a lifesaver for a dictator on the skids," he writes
"Clever dictators will realize that they can barter their chemical-weapons arsenals to buy time to crush an insurrection and then rebuild the arsenal after the population has been pacified."
By choosing to focus on chemical weapons rather than on the central elements of Syria's civil war, "the president is now rewarding the very offenses that he said he wanted to punish," Feith says.
"In the name of arms control, he is incentivizing the proliferation of chemical weapons. In the name of international law, he is undermining respect for treaties. In the name of U.S. interests, he is emboldening America's enemies."
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