When I wrote in my last but one column that the only winner in the shambles that the West was making over its response to Syria would be Vladimir Putin, I had no idea how prescient that snide comment would turn out to be. So incompetent has the Obama White House been in its on-again, off-again action against the criminal despot Assad, and so eager is Barack Obama himself to find an exit from his own impasse, that Russia is being absurdly elevated to world saviour in a crisis which it has helped to create.

Thanks to an ironic aside from John Kerry (obviously uttered with little thought that it could be taken seriously) to the effect that in the wildly unlikely event that Assad should hand over all his chemical weapons Syria could escape American attack, the US president has jumped gleefully off the hook. The congressional deliberations over military action can now be put on an even more leisurely schedule than they would have been while we all wait and see if that great world statesman, Mr Putin, can bring peace to the region. Of course it will take weeks for this entirely disingenuous prospect to be explored and further weeks to investigate just how – in the middle of a violent civil war – any reliable inspection mechanism might be carried out to determine whether Mr Asasad really has divested himself of all his hideous weapons. But never mind, in the meantime the whole business can simply be allowed to fade away – especially as the Assad regime will have enough sense not to make use of identifiable poison gas for the duration.

Mr Putin will have been handed the most spectacular public relations victory imaginable and the Assad regime will go its murderous way into the indefinite future. American resolve and integrity will have taken a blow from which it may take a generation to recover. (Maybe Mr Obama should offer to give Mr Putin his Nobel Peace Prize?) However you felt about the prospect of the US intervening in yet another Middle Eastern country, this is an ignominious chapter in American diplomatic history

1369 reads | 11.09.2013

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