US officials continue to claim the right to attack Syria at any time if the country doesn’t follow through with its pledged chemical weapons disarmament, and that fact in and of itself is a major challenge to the deal.
That’s because “compliance” is going to mean different things to different people in a long and difficult process, and the inherent distrust between the US and Syria (and Russia) means there will be plenty of opportunities for misunderstanding.
Even the declaration of Syria’s arsenal to the international community is going to be such an opportunity, as experts say the US intelligence on the arms dates to before the civil war really picked up and is “probably outdated.”
Primarily this means the US no longer knows where a lot of the weapons are stored, because they’ve been moved again and again to keep them away from the rebels. Now, when Syria reveals an arsenal in a new location, the US will not be sure if it’s a known one from somewhere else, or a previously undocumented one, and will constantly suspect Syria is “holding back” some of its arms.
Existing intelligence is exactly why holding back arms is a bad idea, but the ongoing US suspicion of all things Syrian means that even if things are going apparently well, the US is likely to constantly be assuming problems, and Syria will constantly be worrying that the US is going to attack them for no good reason, because that’s something the US just does sometimes.
It is only to the extent that Russia can keep the two sides reasonably calm that the plan can move forward, since Syria will no doubt renege if US attack seems imminent, and the US will see every little thing as proof Syria is about to renege.
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