Assad Can Stay, Secretary Kerry Says

The American position on Syrian President Assad has ‘evolved,’ according to Administration insiders, and yesterday that evolution became explicit in the words of Secretary of State John F. Kerry.

“The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting President Vladimir Putin. A major international conference on Syria would take place later this week in New York, Kerry announced…

[A]fter a day of discussions with Assad’s key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad.” Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which “Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria.”…

Kerry said, “No one should be forced to choose between a dictator and being plagued by terrorists.” However, he described the Syrian opposition’s demand that Assad must leave as soon as peace talks begin as a “nonstarting position, obviously.”

Let us remember that the chief reason the United States is actively involved in this conflict is that Assad violated US President Barack Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons against his own people.  The President mentioned this fact as the core of the American interested in the conflict as recently as his September speech at the United Nations.

[A]t the core of the US-Russian power struggle was the fate of Bashar al-Assad and whether he is the root of the problem or part of the solution.

It is a fundamental difference that has prevented concerted international action on Syria for the entirety of the four-year war, which has cost the lives of over 250,000 Syrians and driven more than 11 million from their homes…. [Obama] assailed states who gave in to the temptation of a “might makes right” philosophy.

“In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent civilians because the alternative is surely worse,” Obama said in remarks clearly aimed primarily at Putin, who has repeatedly insisted that defeat of Isis can only be achieved by support of the “legitimate government” of Syria.

Even four weeks ago, the President was still declaring that the removal of Assad was the sin qua non of America’s position on the conflict.  Nevertheless, by October the shift was obviously underway.  We at IranTruth reported Kerry’s opening proposal to give up on the removal of Assad as part of a self-inflicted crisis of credibility afflicting American diplomacy under the current administration.  At that point Kerry merely hinted that the US would give up its position in return for a “political process” with Russia and Iran on the ultimate fate of Syria.  “[I]f we can get into a political process,” he said, “sometimes these things have a way of resolving themselves.”

Sometimes proves to be always, and always the same way:  the administration surrenders the US position, whether to Iran or to Russia, in return merely for being involved in a process.  Diplomatic engagement is taken as an end in itself, and a more important end than whatever our actual goal had been to begin with.

The conservative commentary site Hot Air asks an obvious question:

Why make a concession now, after four years of insisting that Assad must go, if Iran’s grip on Syria is weakening and Putin is allegedly getting bogged down in the Syrian quagmire? If the Shiites and their allies are weakening, now’s the moment to double down and insist that Assad must go ASAP even if “the regime” writ large remains in place for awhile.

The answer that seems most probable is that the President’s real plan is to surrender Syria to Iran and Russia, and he is therefore moving now precisely because it reinforces them at a moment when they may be wavering.  This plays into the same dynamic as the Iran Deal itself, which President Obama alone seems really to believe in.  It explains why his administration caved on uranium enrichment early in the negotiations, and why they gave away ballistic missiles and heavy weapons late in the negotiations.  It’s why they continue to proceed with removing sanctions in spite of multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions.  The Iran Deal was presented as a means of controlling Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it is really a means of helping Iran become a regional hegemon.

The gentle interpretation of that is that Obama thinks — as Bill Clinton claimed to think before him — that Iran is the most legitimate and democratic state in the region, and hopes it will lead the region to stability and progress if he can help them become the great power he says he hopes they will become.  A less gentle interpretation is that Obama believes, as many from the academic left claim to, that American intervention in the Middle East is the real source of instability in the world.  An Iran with heavy weapons and ballistic missiles, left as a threshold nuclear state with minimal supervision on its development of nuclear weapons, is an Iran that will soon have adequate resources to deter future American Presidents.  On this interpretation, Iran is the partner Obama wants to help him stop American intervention in the Middle East permanently.