Three weeks after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad killed more than 1,400 of his own people with chemical weapons, the Obama administration announced the framework of an agreement directing Assad to give up his chemical arsenal—an agreement brokered by Russia, Syria’s ally and arms dealer. The deal has reshaped geopolitics in dramatic ways, most notably by casting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the unlikely role of peacemaker—not to mention the political savior who threw a lifeline to an American president desperately seeking an escape from the military action he had declared would be in the offing. What Putin and Obama enacted was a trade-off in which both leaders seemed to have gotten what they wanted. Obama was looking for a way of addressing the Syria crisis without an American strike. Putin was looking to raise his mythic profile and to assert Russia’s power on the world stage.
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