Earlier this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to seek his help in dissuading Syrian president Bashar Assad from using nerve gas on his own people and in encouraging Assad instead to give up power.
I wonder if Clinton had read a report from the region saying that the Syrians’ chemical weapons had been moved recently after the Syrians realized the Central Intelligence Agency knew their location. Why is this of interest? Because, according to this account, the weapons were “under the direct supervision of experts from Iran, Russia and North Korea.”
If that were the case, I could imagine the following conversation:
Clinton: Seryozha, I think it’s undignified to play hide-and-seek. I think you should tell us where Syria’s sarin gas is stored. It would be just a small gesture, to help reset the reset button, if you see what I mean, and we’re going to find it out anyway.
Lavrov: Kheelari, I have no idea what you’re talking about! But I have a complaint to make to you. You’ve said Bashar Assad has to go, even though you know how sensitive we Russians are about discussing regime change, any time anywhere. I mean, how could you?
Clinton: Seryozha, don’t worry about that! After all, I never said that about Vladimir Vladimirovich [ed: Putin], and I never will! But meanwhile, can you help with Assad’s travel plans? Here’s the problem: Venezuela would have been super, but with Chavez ailing it’s just not good timing. Ditto for Cuba, given Castro’s health. In fact, don’t you find it ironic that places with such wonderful health care systems have dying leaders? But I digress!
Ecuador would also have been perfect, but Julian Assange seems to have booked the guest room in the London embassy indefinitely, so that’s out. What about Belarus?
Lavrov: Kheelari, I just don’t get it. Five or ten years ago, I might have understood such a request. But you guys now have excellent ties of your own with our best Latin contacts. What do you need us for? OK, maybe we could help with Belarus, but that’s really the only one.
Clinton: Yes, but there are two parts to this puzzle. We’d really like you to encourage Assad to leave. Maybe even provide him security, in case his fellow Alawites try to kill him on the way out the door.
Lavrov: I don’t think so – we think your innovative policy of “leading from behind” has lots of advantages, so we’re going to try it ourselves. That certainly rules out any security for Assad.
Clinton: I think you’re mis-setting the reset button.
Lavrov: Well, if you’re going to criticize me, then I’ll return the favor. How can I be sure that all those arms you’ve been shipping into Syria from Libya aren’t going to end up in the hands of jihadist groups?
Clinton: I have no idea what you’re talking about!