The farce that nearly lit up the entire Middle East is like a glass that, paradoxically, has three halves. The glass half full (still in the making) is obvious: The axis of evil believes U.S. President Barack Obama's threats. That is quite an accomplishment for the American president. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus have all reached the same conclusion: Obama has no choice but to attack Syrian President Bashar Assad. Be it with the approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives or without it -- ultimately, the American people are more patriotic than often believed, and they won't trip up their own president.
Chemical weapons are a poor man's nuclear bomb that the Assad regime has long developed. If a mechanism can be found to strip the regime of its massive chemical weapons stores, it would be an enormous strategic shift. The Syrian regime will become infinitely weaker before the civil war even ends and, in the eyes of the American administration, Obama will get the credit.
The fighting will continue anyway, but at least the rebels will enjoy immunity from chemical attacks. Their chances would improve, especially if Obama increases the aid he provides them in the intensifying war. He can also boast an important achievement without firing a single Tomahawk missile. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will proudly travel the Middle East and explain to the region that America is strong. Or, at least, he will say, it wasn't proven as weak.
According to this scenario, Iran has plenty to worry about, even if Obama may prove flaky on these matters.
The glass half empty (already in effect) is clear: Russian President Vladimir Putin has gained power. There is some truth to his claims that without him, there is no order in the Middle East. I would suggest that Middle East peace negotiators pay attention to that.
Even if the U.S. ultimately manages to dodge the bullet, the administration's conduct has been a fiasco. The American president failed to stick to his guns on any issue, he allowed snot-nosed punks around the world to insult him and beat him down, and, most importantly, lost America the reputation of being a strong protective umbrella under which all the enlightened nations of the world can take cover.
It is true that Assad lost a strategic weapon, but if a deal is struck, it grants a kind of legitimacy to Russian and Iranian involvement in the war, sending a message that the fall of the Assad regime is not going to happen. If Obama behaves with such hesitation when facing Syria, the ayatollahs in Iran have nothing to worry about. That is the main, most piercing conclusion.
The third half of the glass is still murky: The Russians, Iranians and Syrians are pulling one over on the West, the same way the Iranians fooled the inspectors who investigated their nuclear program.
As soon as the tension subsides, the bureaucracy will begin. The Syrians, with the help of the Russians, will begin working on reducing the level of monitoring, and ultimately there won't be any supervision at all. They will hide some of the chemical weapons or try to secretly transfer them to Hezbollah (Israel must make it very clear that it will prevent this at any cost. Otherwise, there will be hell to pay).
The U.S. will grow accustomed to the new reality. As mentioned, Obama will have improved his status among the American people; all the Western countries, which, essentially don't really care when vicious massacres are carried out in Damascus (and furthermore, such massacres will likely subside for a while), will have achieved a goal whose significance is questionable.
On paper, everything will look right. Especially on paper. As of Monday, the situation is fluid and uncertain.