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The Syrian Gambit -- The Next Surprise Move

Just a hunch, but I think Bashar al-Assad, and probably Vladimir Putin, may have another surprise chess move to play -- one that may catch Israel and its U.S. ally completely off guard.

From the start, Syria's leaders have viewed their chemical weapons as a kind of poor man's weapon of mass destruction -- an affordable way for them to present a meaningful deterrent to Israel's overwhelming military might, and particularly to Israel's nuclear capability.

As I previously blogged, that's the bottom line of several serious studies of Syria's weapons program, done over the past few years by American and other experts, such as Charles Blair of the Federation of American Scientists. As a paper published by the European Union's non-proliferation consortium in July 2012 concluded, "Syria's CWs are not tactical or battlefield weapons, but rather a strategic deterrence against Israel's conventional superiority and its nuclear weapons arsenal."

Now, Syria and its Russian sponsors have announced that Syria would be willing to give up its CW and sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The next move? What would be more natural than for Assad and/or Putin to call upon Israel to give up its WMD -- i.e. its nuclear weapons, and to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty.

A perfectly reasonable request, they would say: tit for tat.

The U.S. and Israel and Israel's backers would squirm and fume: Israel, after all, is a civilized state, they would say, run by civilized men like Bibi Netanyahu, not brutal tyrants like Assad.

Will Assad and Putin make that move? It would seem a natural.

By the way, it wasn't just John Kerry who came up with the idea of Assad giving up his CW.

As I wrote in my previous blog, Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, proposed giving Bashar al-Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin ridding the country of its weapons stockpiles. Only if Assad refused would the American president be authorized to take military action.

"We need some options out there that does something about the chemical weapons," Mr. Manchin said. "That's what's missing right now."

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