One of the least understood consequences of the deal the United States has struck with Russia over the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is that it (perversely) gives Washington an incentive to keep President Assad in power. To carry out the accord will require Assad not only to be in full control of those weapons stocks, but also that his regime will be secure enough to believe it can rid itself of those stocks and strong enough to provide security for whatever international teams that do enter the country to count, verify, and destroy those same chemical stockpiles.
One can easily imagine elements within the US government arguing for increased supplies and weaponry to designated groups in the Syrian opposition, while others, more closely aligned with the White House and the Secretary of State’s outer office, pushing back against such an effort on the grounds that such aid could potentially so disrupt the situation within Syria in such a way that it undermines the political or military conditions necessary to implement the agreement. Even if there was only the slightest chance that this would be the case, with the president and the secretary’s reputations now tied so intimately to the agreement, the national security bureaucracy will be even more cautious when it comes to helping the Syrian opposition. At the end of the day, with this new accord to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, the Obama administration, intentionally or not, will almost certainly find itself working to save Assad’s bacon.