International cooperation succeeds in deterring al-Assad, for now

The United States, Russia and several other countries appear to have halted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's preparations in November to launch chemical weapons.

The international cooperation over the civil war in Syria is remarkable because the outside world has rarely agreed on a common course of action. Russia, Turkey, Iraq and possibly Jordan all sent private messages to the Syrian leader and his top military commanders. The United States issued a public warning, according to the New York Times.

In late November, Israel's top military commanders discussed the arrival of troubling intelligence with officials at the U.S. Department of Defense. They were in possession of satellite imagery showing Syrian troops mixing chemicals at two sites. They believed the chemicals were the nerve agent sarin.

A week later, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the crisis was finished for the time being. The United States and its allies continue to monitor the situation closely.

"I think the Russians understood this is the one thing that could get us to intervene in the war," one senior defense official said, the New York Times reports. "What Assad understood, and whether that understanding changes if he gets cornered in the next few months, that's anyone's guess."

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