Putin Snookers Obama

Snookered… How’s that “Change has come…” working for you?
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Putin’s deft timing on a Syria chemical arms surrender plan snookered Obama
Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.22 EDT

It is no consolation at all to Syria’s suffering people, stuck with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime. But for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president and long-standing anti-western bogeyman, the decision to put military action on hold represents a signal diplomatic triumph with possible long-term strategic implications for Moscow’s role in the Middle East and beyond.

Putin’s unexpected proposal that Syria surrender its chemical weapons to the international community comprehensively snookered a politically cornered Barack Obama. The White House, not Assad, was disarmed; it simply did not see it coming.

Despite belated claims that the idea was under discussion for a year or more, the fact is Putin, with impeccable timing, made it his own – and won instant backing from Syria, Iran, the UN and relieved European allies.

Faced with overwhelming opposition to military intervention from the American public and a near certain defeat in Congress, Obama seized on the Russian démarche with almost embarrassing eagerness. That former UN inspectors say collecting chemical weapons in the midst of Syria’s civil war may be unworkable, apparently mattered little to the US president at this moment of high angst – and even less in Putin’s cynical world of great power gamesmanship.

“Putin’s goal is to play for time, to push off the talk of strikes for as long as possible, because the longer he pushes them off the less likely they are,” Philippe Moreau Defarges, of the French Institute of International Relations, in Paris, told Henry Meyer, of Bloomberg. “Hats off to the Russians, those guys are master diplomats. Putin and Assad have totally won this round.” . . .

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