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September 10, 2013 5:35 PM Turnaround on Syria?

By Ed Kilgore

Gee, and I thought maybe I was being too optimistic or naive in thinking the French-Russian diplomatic initiative might change the terrible dynamics of Obama’s Syria initiative. But here’s Ezra Klein, quoting an AP breaking news tweet reporting that ” Syrian foreign minister says Syria will declare its chemical weapons arsenal, sign chemical weapons convention.”

Assuming that sticks, it’s game. The White House just achieved its goal.
Remember: The White House’s aim here wasn’t to topple Assad, or even hurt him. It was to affirm and reinforce the international norm against chemical weapons….
Assad is now agreeing to preserve and strengthen that norm. He’s agreeing to sign the treaty banning chemical weapons — a treaty Syria has been one of the lone holdouts against. He’s creating a situation in which it would be almost impossible for him to use chemical weapons in the future, as doing so would break his promises to the global community, invite an immediate American response, and embarrass Russia.
This is, in many ways, a better outcome than the White House could have hoped for. Punishing Syria may or may not have actually reinforced the norm against chemical weapons — particularly if the strikes went bad and the American people punished members of Congress who voted for them. But Syria joining the treaty against chemical weapons definitely, almost definitionally, reinforces the ban.

Ezra adds some “to be sure” cautionary notes, but also suggests that unless the AP report is erroneous it may not be too early for Obama to declare victory.

As it happens, he’s planning a speech tonight. But he better keep an eye on other breaking news.

WaPo’s Joel Achenbach sums up the general atmosphere in Washington quite well:

This is an unusual Washington moment, completely unscripted, with few if any precedents in recent memory. The situation changes by the hour. The Russian overture — an offer to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control — further scrambled any sense of where this is leading. Obama will address the nation in a prime-time broadcast Tuesday night in an attempt to sell his Syria policy to a skeptical citizenry.

Stay tuned.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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