United States Secretary of State John Kerry, in a CBS interview televised Sunday, suggested that the only way to bring the civil war in Syria to an end may be to re-engage with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry communicated he would sit at a table with Assad, “if he’s ready to have a serious negotiation about the implementation of Geneva I.” Here, Kerry was referring to the initial 2012 United Nations-backed international peace talks that addressed the issue of transitioning the political power in Syria.
In this Sunday interview, Kerry did not continue with the usual U.S. diction that Assad has lost all credibility and should be forced out of power. Kerry addressed the issue from a more diplomatic position alluding to Syria’s, “legitimacy”. Kerry ceded that if this conflict, which has been raging on now for the better part of four years, is going to come to a halt, “[w]e have to negotiate in the end.” Basically, Kerry said the U.S., along with other countries, is interested in re-engaging in the diplomatic process with Assad if that is what it will take to stop the conflict. Assad has said in response that, “declarations from outside do not concern us.”
This conflict has taken 200,000 lives since its beginning over four years ago. To many it is one of the worst military campaigns ever seen on Earth. Syria has proved to be a significant source of instability in the Middle East. It has provided a springboard for terrorist groups like ISIS which have forced the U.S. to bomb many areas within the country. Though, the U.S. has avoided targeting locations that are within Assad’s regime. Syria has also burdened its neighbors’ supply of resources by forcing thousands of refugees across their borders.
The U.S. has trained some forces within Syrian borders to combat the rising threat presented by ISIS. In fact, the U.S. would like to continue with these efforts but would also like to assure Assad that the purpose of these forces is to combat ISIS, and are not meant to be a threat to Assad. Assad is fighting an uphill battle though if he wishes to begin discussing peace talks. The regime is accused of numerous war crimes and has been attributed with the killing of tens of thousands of civilian lives.
Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, precipitated Kerry’s new position on Thursday. Psaki said that, “[a]s we have long said, Assad must go and be replaced through a negotiated political transition that is representative of the Syrian people.” The key new element here is of course, “negotiation.” Marie Harf, Psaki’s deputy, made a statement Sunday after Kerry’s interview reiterating that the overall position of U.S. on policy in Syria has not changed, but in order to make progress in this conflict, people must come together at the negotiation table where steps toward change can be clearly outlined.
John Kerry has made a decision that in order to end the suffering of the people in Syria, the U.S. must re-engage in negotiations with Assad. There seems to be growing support in Syria of U.S. support as peaceful rallies are held. Whether Assad will cooperate with Kerry and others in seeking a diplomatic solution to the civil war that continues within Syrian borders is unknown.
By Joel Wickwire
Photo by cometstarmoon – Flickr License
Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi – Flickr License