KERRY’S FAILED SYRIA DIPLOMACY
Secretary of State John F. Kerry has made negotiating an end to the Syria conflict one of his main policy objectives before the Obama administration ends in January. So far, his months of effort have failed.
The cease-fire agreement he negotiated with Moscow collapsed last week. A Russian airstrike hit a U.N. aid convoy headed for the besieged city of Aleppo, scuttling the halt to hostilities that Mr. Kerry had spent months working on. It was the second failed cease-fire.
On Wednesday, the secretary spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and threatened to cut off further talks on Syria, according to an official readout of the call in which Mr. Kerry “expressed grave concern” about the civil war in Syria. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Mr. Kerry voiced concerns for “continued Russian and Syrian regime attacks on hospitals, the water supply network and other civilian infrastructure in Aleppo.”
“The secretary made clear the United States and its partners hold Russia responsible for this situation, including the use of incendiary and bunker buster bombs in an urban environment, a drastic escalation that puts civilians at great risk,” Mr. Kirby said in a statement.
The statement is further proof of what critics say are signs the secretary of state remains ignorant or incapable of understanding Russian goals in Syria, namely keeping the regime of President Bashar Assad in power and helping him defeat the array of anti-government rebels inside the country.
Mr. Kerry told Mr. Lavrov “the United States is making preparations to suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria — including on the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center — unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities,” the spokesman said.
Mr. Kerry defended the failed diplomacy in an interview with Reuters. “In this business of diplomacy, you have to test things sometimes,” he said this week. “It is a mistake to delude yourself. It is also a mistake to avoid putting something to test where there is a reasonable chance something may be able to happen.”
Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the military’s General Staff said Wednesday that Russian experts are ready to travel to Geneva to restart consultations with the U.S. to “search for possible ways of normalizing the situation in Aleppo” — the besieged stronghold of rebel groups.
But some in the Pentagon believe Mr. Kerry is deluding himself in seeking to negotiate with the Russians, who appear to playing Mr. Kerry for the fool and using talks and agreements as a tactic to limit outside military support to rebels.
The Pentagon remains deeply skeptical of Mr. Kerry’s appeasement-oriented approach to Russia and the Syria conflict. A senior military officer told Inside the Ring the diplomatic effort will have the likely result of limiting U.S. support for anti-Islamic State rebels backed by U.S. special operations forces on the ground in Syria.
That sentiment was reflected in the statement Monday by Sens. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who said diplomacy without other forms of power is a recipe for failure.
“President Obama’s Syria policy continues to offer gruesome proof of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” they said.
“The pattern is as simple as it is predictable: A cease-fire is agreed; Russian, Iranian and Syrian regime forces rest, refit and redeploy their forces; the carnage resumes; and the cease-fire collapses. What the Obama administration calls a quagmire, the Assad regime calls progress.”