Thursday, 14 February 2013
From The Wall St. Journal:
Kerry Says He Has Plan for Syria Power Shift
By JAY SOLOMON
WASHINGTON—Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday said he plans to launch a new initiative to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a move that could involve leveraging the former senator's past personal relationship with the Arab leader.
Mr. Kerry wouldn't elaborate, but said he believed he understood the "calculations" that drive Mr. Assad and wants to change them.
"I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception," Mr. Kerry said in an appearance at the State Department with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. He added, "I've got a good sense of what I think we might propose."
The Obama administration's new top diplomat has stressed in recent days his belief that Mr. Assad could be coaxed from office if directly engaged by Syria's rebels and provided lifelines for himself and his country's Allawite minority.
Many in Syria's opposition have long said only use of force will drive Mr. Assad and his family from power. Republican leaders—and some Democrats—have also pressed the White House to begin arming Syria's rebels.
Mr. Kerry criticized the Syrian opposition movement during his Senate confirmation hearing last month for its unwillingness so far to engage in talks with Mr. Assad's government. The American diplomat said such talks could end the Damascus regime's rule and stop the escalating civil war in Syria that is estimated to have killed 70,000 people.
The new leader of Syria's opposition coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, however, has said in recent weeks that he would be willing to talk with the Assad regime and provide guarantees to the Syrian dictator that he wouldn't be charged with human-rights abuses if he voluntarily leaves office.
"We need to change Bashar Assad's calculation. Right now President Assad doesn't think he's losing—and the opposition think it's winning," Mr. Kerry said during his late January testimony.
Mr. Kerry, while chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as Washington's unofficial point man on Syria during President Barack Obama's first term.
The Massachusetts politician met with Mr. Assad roughly a half-dozen times during this time and focused on severing Syria's military alliance with Iran. Mr. Kerry also sought to kick-start peace talks between Syria and Israel [why "peace talks" which can only yield to some idiotic Israeli surrender in the Golan, and weaken Deterrence, the Only True Peacekeeper between Israel and the Rest]and publicly stated his belief that he believed Mr. Assad could embrace reform and integrate his country with the West.
Mr. Kerry's views on Mr. Assad were criticized by many human-rights activists at the time, who said they believed the U.S. politician was naive about the abuses of the Syrian regime. Mr. Kerry and the Obama administration were initially slow to call for Mr. Assad to step down once the uprising against his rule gathered momentum in March, 2011.
Some diplomats have said in recent weeks that they believed Mr. Kerry might directly seek to engage Mr. Assad to try and quickly, and peacefully, end his rule. This view was encouraged by Mr. Kerry's comments Wednesday, even though he didn't outline such a strategy.
Mr. Obama has backed the use of nonlethal U.S. aid to rebels, but hasn't sent arms, despite support for that idea from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top military and intelligence officials.
"The president's policy has been crystal clear on this," Mr. Kerry said on Wednesday, adding the administration wants to "make sure we have a political solution, if at all possible."
He said both he and Mr. Obama believe that Mr. Assad will not last long as his country's ruler, although he said Mr. Assad may not believe that.
"But I can assure you my goal is to see us change his calculation," Mr. Kerry said. "My goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence. It may not be possible. I'm not going to stand here and tell you that's automatic or easily achievable."
Posted on 02/14/2013 6:35 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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