Yitzhak Rabin used to say that politics is not exactly an association for mutual affection. Obama and Putin have not had enough opportunities to hate each other, but none of them is overly fond of the other.
Obama condemns the way Putin violates human rights in Russia, and takes every opportunity to blast the dark methods he uses to deal with his political rivals. Putin, a leader who knows how to preserve his power by casting fear, likes to mock Obama over his appeasement and arrogance.
There isn't even one line connecting between Obama, whose policy was designed between Harvard and Chicago, and Putin, who grew tough in the KGB cellars. The former is a liberal with a worldview based on human liberty; the latter is a conservative who believes in the crude language of power.
But a meeting of interests was created around the Syrian issue, bridging the abyss of contempt and animosity: Putin wanted to prevent an American military attack on his protégé, while Obama wanted to disarm the Syrian president of chemical weapons.
The agreement reached in Geneva freed Obama from the need to attack Syria, a strike he didn't want to begin with despite ordering his army to prepare for it. "America is not the world's policeman," the US president said while explaining why he was giving diplomacy a chance.
Obama did not want to launch a strike in Syria without the Congress' support, and he knew he would not get it; after a decade of wars, the majority of the American public is tired of them. Obama also knew that a military offensive, as successful as it might be, would not be able to destroy all of Assad's chemical weapons.
But the reliable threat of war was turned by the US president into a significant accessory in his diplomatic toolbox. Now he is about to reap the fruits. If Syria obeys world powers and its chemical weapons are destroyed, it will serve as further proof of the perception presented by Obama throughout his presidency: Political wisdom is better than a bomb, even a smart and laser-guided one.
The agreement was signed in Geneva, but the ink reaches Iran as well. Once Syria's non-conventional weapons are destroyed, Obama will start making his way to the next stop: Tehran. Even the ayatollahs are seeing the sights and hearing the new sounds of the power of diplomacy.
If the agreement signed Saturday is executed, it will be determined that Obama proved there are moments in foreign policy in which it is better to load the gun, point it between the enemy's eyes – and restrain oneself. Assad quivered first, and in this sophisticated diplomacy Obama plans to do the same to Rohani.