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John Patrick Grace: Keeping score in Syrian situation is tough to do

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 09:15 AM

Clearly the Syrian situation has been evolving like a head-spinning kaleidoscope.

Incredible twists and turns. Hard to track. Harder to understand because of the complex geopolitical connections to a nuclear-bent Iran and the barely sub superpower states of Russia and China, all supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

President Barack Obama draws a red line in the sand regarding Assad's use of chemical weapons. Assad crosses the line, not once but 12 to 14 times. Obama orders the U.S. Navy to station cruise-missile-bearing destroyers off the Syrian coast, poised to strike.

Then, suddenly, Obama invites the U.S. Congress -- Senate and House -- to vote on whether or not the U.S. should punish Assad with air strikes. The votes turn out to be "not there."

Next, Russia seizes upon an offhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry that says a strike could be averted if Assad turns over all his chemical weapons to United Nations control.

The Syrian government sends a signal that they accept the proposal.

Obama orders the vote in Congress postponed and dispatches Kerry to meet with Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

To the astonishment of the media and even world leaders, Lavrov and Kerry strike a deal that involves Syria turning over control of its chemical weapons to the U.N.

The Syrian government agrees with the deal, and a day later Syria's ambassador to the U.N. rises to declare that Syria will sign the international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.

A few days earlier President Assad had not even admitted that his arsenal included chemical weapons such as sarin nerve gas.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others express skepticism that the Kerry-Lavrov deal will hold up. Some observers say Assad is simply playing for more time in order to defeat the rebels and consolidate his hold on power.

An international thriller author who proposed such a storyline would likely have it rejected by his editors as "wildly unrealistic." And yet here we are in the middle of all this. With the stakes mounting higher by the day. Please pay attention -- and keep praying.

John Patrick Grace formerly worked as an editor on The Associated Press Foreign Desk in New York and then as a foreign correspondent based in Rome. He lives in eastern Cabell county and is a regular weekly columnist for The Herald-Dispatch.

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