Report: Obama's Syria deal good for Assad

President Obama's decision to call off a military strike against Syria was a good deal for Syrian President Bashar Assad, the intelligence community concluded in a report released Wednesday.

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The worldwide threat assessment from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Syria's willingness to instead give up its chemical weapons “adds legitimacy” to the Assad regime. Obama signed off on the deal negotiated between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart after lawmakers balked at approving military action.

“Moscow has hailed its CW [chemical warfare] initiative in Syria as a major foreign policy accomplishment,” the report to Congress states in its section on Russia. “It positions Russia to play a major role in any future settlement of the Syrian conflict and adds legitimacy to the Syrian regime.”

The report acknowledges that the deal has the potential to eliminate a dangerous threat to the U.S., however. Syria is about six to eight weeks behind schedule but remains officially committed to getting rid of all its chemical weapons by the middle of this year.

"Previously, we had assessed that Syria had a highly active chemical warfare (CW) program and maintained a stockpile of sulfur mustard, sarin, VX, and a stockpile of munitions — including missiles, aerial bombs, and artillery rockets — that can be used to deliver CW agents. Until the CW materials are completely destroyed or removed from country, groups or individuals in Syria might gain access to CW-related materials."

The comments echo Republican criticism of the agreement. 

“It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said soon after it was announced. “And the Obama administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

The State Department pushed back against the report on Wednesday.

“I certainly don't think we view any step as adding legitimacy to the regime,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “We do think that getting chemical weapons out of Syria, as we've said many times, would certainly be a positive step. But obviously the fact that these were used to begin with, remains a jarring reminder of the brutality happening in the country.”

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