If there is an international crises expert who was surprised by Putin's compromise offer regarding Syria, then he should go into a different line of work. There is nothing surprising about this tempting and indecent proposal.
As soon as the crisis began it was clear that when Mr. Assad would have his back to the wall he would agree to certain restrictions on his chemical weapons in exchange for delaying an American strike.
But he is not really agreeing. The civil war in Syria will end long before Assad will be fully disarmed of his chemical weapons stockpiles. He will stall for time, deceive the inspectors and, in the best case scenario, hand them only some of the stockpiles.
The Syrian president proved a long time ago that he is not only a mass murderer; he is also a compulsive liar. The man has no problem using the most transparent lies. Throughout the civil war in his country he has denied the use of chemical weapons and his involvement in the killing of innocent civilians. Putin, Assad's longtime ally, is also not known for being a symbol of international integrity.
This is why the possibility that the Russian proposal will be implemented is about equal to the possibility that Iran will give up its nuclear hobby. In both cases there is a depressing meeting of Western weakness and Middle Eastern cunningness. The West does not really want to act, and it is willing to buy any Middle Eastern trick in order to climb down from the tree.
In exchange for agreeing to the Russia plan, Assad will be given an extended period of immunity from a military strike. An entire autumn will pass before the proposal is drafted properly and is approved by all sides involved. Then we will see an entire winter of Sisyphean searches in the Syrian deserts for signs of chemical weapons.
Even if it will be proven in the spring beyond a doubt that the compromise offer was a shameful ploy, Obama will no longer be able to attack Syria. If he can’t convince the members of Congress today, he certainly won't be able to convince them six months from now, when the memory of the children's bodies in the suburbs of Damascus will have faded entirely.
A short memory is a basic work premise of such shrewd chaps as Assad and Putin.