Why the Syria Deal May Just Work

After two and a half years of paralysis over Syria, the P5 is coming together in a major way. The deal is yet to be officially finalized, but it looks like the Security Council was able to overcome their differences and will pass a resolution authorizing the international monitoring and destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpiles.

The key point of contention between the USA and Russia was over the question of what to do in the event of non-compliance. The Russians did not want an automatic trigger for American intervention, and it looks like they got what they wanted as the resolution would call for a second resolution to authorize the use of force for non-compliance.

The resolution could be voted on as early as today. Some key takeaways:

1) This diplomacy re-affirms the relevance of the Security Council. Just three weeks ago it looked all but assured that the USA would circumvent the Council with unilateral military strikes on Syria. The threat of those strikes seemed to shake Russia out of its fervent obstructionist stance, which in turn made the Security Council the single most important international institution for dealing with the Syria crisis.  The Security Council has gotten its act together, so now there is some hope that perhaps that momentum can be built upon for a broader international diplomatic solution to Syria’s crisis.

2) Russia still holds most of the cards, but it will be far easier now for the USA to convince other countries to support military strikes should Syria verifiably not comply with the stricture of the deal. That means that Russia has an abiding interest in making sure that Syria complies with this resolution.

3) The next steps is the very hard task of doing weapons inspections in a war zone.  The difficulty of this should not be under-estimated. But at least now the weapons inspectors have a unified Security Council to support their work.