From an Israeli perspective, it won''t be possible to judge the Obama-Putin (or the Putin-Obama) deal on Syria until we see what happens with Iran''s nuclear program.
(A pessimistic view is that we won''t be able to judge until we see how Israel and Iran deal with each other''s nuclear threat.)
Leaving aside the prospect that Iran will produce nuclear weapons and we''ll all have to live with them, Israeli views of Obama''s most recent efforts range from praise to ridicule.
On one side is a writer who considers the American President to have shown a sophisticated capacity to mix threat with restraint.
"If the agreement signed Saturday is executed, it will be determined that Obama proved there are moments in foreign policy in which it is better to load the gun, point it between the enemy''s eyes – and restrain oneself. Assad quivered first, and in this sophisticated diplomacy Obama plans to do the same to Rohani."
The cleverist expression of ridicule appears in an anonymous item that came to my in-box.
It''s a picture of a cake, with its frosting crafted into a likeness of Barack Obama. The translation of the Hebrew is:
"Excuse me. Do you have an Obama Torte?No. What''s that?It''s like a Napoleon Torte, but without eggs."
Eggs (ביצים) for those out of the know, is Hebrew slang for balls.
Somewhere between the praise for sophistication and the ridicule for a lack of assertiveness is the pragmatic conclusion that what happened has worked, so far.
Russia and the US have agreed on a strategy, if not all the details, and Assad says he is willing to go along.
Tell me about a major international deal, or a prominent domestic one that has been implemented quickly in all the details, or even slowly and in all the details, and I will consider admitting to naivete about Obama, Putin, and Assad.
World War II produced unprecedented destruction and unprecedented unconditional surrenders, but did not end neatly. The celebrations of the victors were diluted by a falling out between the West and the Soviet Union, and the tiring of those wanting revenge after a few high profile executions. There remain today persecutions of the final villains, now in their 90s, with most of them expiring before the end of their trials.
Those who praise Barack Obama have to contend with details that look more blundering than wise or even deliberate. Having the Secretary of State speak at the highest pitches of morality and certainty, then turning to Congress for an approval that looked problematic initially and turned into an almost certain "No" was inelegant in the extreme. If Assad may have seen a real threat of American force as the public opinion polls appeared and statements of rejection came from the House and Senate, he was more fearful of America than many observers in Israel and elsewhere thought appropriate. If there was real pressure on Assad, it seems more likely to have come from Russia than from the US.
Among those most certain of failure are the folks who may have lost the most so far, i.e., Syrian rebels. Assad has not paused in his use of conventional weapons, and civilians as well as fighters continue to die, along with Assad''s own troops. The war is far from over.
Rebel leaders are charging that Assad has begun transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah for movement to Lebanon. Given the rebels'' practice of being more concerned with support than accurate reporting, we can put that under the heading of claims having to be verified.
Whoever is inclined to accept the rebels'' reports as reasons for supporting their side of the civil war must reckon with at least some of those groups being accused by UN officials of war crimes. As in other civil wars that bear mentioning, there are no good guys. Or little agreement on who they are.
One can hope that there are enough Israeli intelligence assets on the ground or in the air of Syria to know when to call on the air force for yet another strike on what are perceived to be weapon convoys heading toward Lebanon.
If Israel decides to act, it will come without consulting the Knesset. The routine is for the Prime Minister and Defense Minister to decide after consulting with the head of the IDF. The public will not know about any operation until it is all over.
Should Hezbollah actually use whatever chemical weapons it acquires against Israel, much of the public may have the protection and antidote required. Then Lebanon will experience enough destruction to arouse those always itching to condemn Israel for excessive reaction, and to send Hezbollah leaders to their bunkers for several more years.
Barack Obama is already proclaiming his success, with reservations about waiting on complete compliance.
Commentators will continue to comment, and historians will judge with more complete information, most of which will deal with events yet to occur. No doubt there will be enough commentary and history on each of many sides to satisfy loyal Democrats, Tea Party activists, and cynics like me.