An old Arab fable describes a man who speaks highly of himself yet offers pitiful results. This how U.S. President Barack Obama's grim condition in our region can be described after he was miraculously saved from himself by the Russians. The arrangement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov culminated with the U.S. president's pitiful fiasco in which he flexed his flimsy muscles, masterfully playing the role of "hold me back."
Throughout the years Syria has become a maddeningly large "bodega" for chemical weapons, which it has accumulated to attack Israel with. Assad's decision to use chemical weapons against his own people stemmed from his growing weakness at home. Following the Kerry-Lavrov agreement in Geneva, Assad has no choice but to stop using these weapons against his own people, as the world will no longer permit it. Additionally, relinquishing his chemical weapons will weaken the anti-Israel mantra employed by Assad to unify the ranks and to create a strategic balance against us.
Everyone is celebrating the agreement that will force Assad to give up his chemical weapons in 2014, and which threatens him with sanctions or the use of force if he fails to do so in the allotted timetable. Everyone knows that the agreement is founded in the fact that no one wants the Islamist radicals to ascend to power in Syria, which explains the tyrant's growing self-confidence. Using an analogy from the game of chess, which the Russians excel at, Assad sacrificed a rook and maybe a knight for his king's survival, and in light of the Russian opposition to a military strike against him in the future, he certainly has not given up his queen.
The deal, however, is more analogous to a "ketuba" (marriage contract) ceremony at a wedding, with a Syrian groom, his excited Russian and American groomsmen, but no bride. The Syrian people, the Free Syrian Army, and primarily the fighters from the "takfiri" rebel groups and al-Qaida where all absent from the ceremony. These forces are refusing to accept the winding and dragging arrangement crafted around them. The rebels, predominately Islamists, are clashing with each other in the fight for control over Syria, and are even further ahead of themselves as they hatch plots to conquer the world after they "liberate" Iraq and Syria. They will not allow Assad, under any circumstances, to return to an acceptable consensus within the framework of the "agreement" and will continue to fight him.
The deal, under its current Geneva formula, leaves "chemical" Assad in power without being punished or deterred and without a future solution for Syria. The result: The Syrian regime managed to extricate itself from a military blow, which was supposed to weaken it significantly, while the chemical weapons, the existence of which was denied, will now be hidden and smuggled out of the country. Nothing of essence will change in Syria if Assad is not physically removed.
The Russians have benefited from dictating a solution to the Americans, which they also desired, by brilliantly guiding the administration. Obama, who was squeezed without support from home or abroad, ran toward the solution he wanted in the first place. On the ground the Russians are now seen as a faithful ally to the Syrians and their other partners. The agreement allowed them to avoid being tested, and exhibiting their weakness, were the Americans to have gone ahead with a military operation in Syria. The Americans lost their element of deterrence in the Syrian and Iranian arenas, because their intention of "hitting" Syria proved to be nothing but hot air.
The United Nations, the same impotent institution that was unable to stop Assad, notched a dubious achievement around the international legitimacy for an American attack, the lack of which provided the excuse to prevent a U.S. strike against Syria. The Russians were able to turn the Security Council into the "straight jacket" that will hinder Obama from using force, in the future as well.
Israel benefitted, because the chemical weapons, maybe, will be dismantled and destroyed. Assad will stay and the Islamists will not take over Syria. On the other hand, it's possible that Israel will once again be exposed to calls to get rid of its own alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Who else is in the arena? The Egyptian army under Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, currently pummeling the Islamist takfir forces in Sinai, is happy that its Islamist enemies in Syria failed to feed off of the prevented U.S. attack. Iran is pleased, because Obama's deterrence failure in Syria frees it to take the brakes off of its nuclear program. The Palestinians are confused: Will the Kerry-Lavrov arrangement bring the spotlight back to the Palestinian arena, or should they go wild again on the Temple Mount? And as usual, the European Union is preoccupied with Israel. Its products must be boycotted and its academic work needs to be denunciated. This is the only way for the world to be saved.