Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that the Obama administration’s policy on Syria hasn’t failed, but “is just very challenging and very difficult.”
He hailed the chemical weapons agreement, the requirements of which Bashar al-Assad has barely met, “is, in and of itself, a significant milestone.”
“And it is progressing. Yes, it’s been slowed down a little bit in the last month, but we have been raising that profile of questions about it and I think it’s now speeding up again,” Kerry continued. “…Before we got that agreement, Assad was using those weapons against his people. Now he’s not and he can’t. So we have eliminated a critical grotesque tool that this man was willing to use ruthlessly against his own people. And we’re moving it out.”
Assad has been dropping barrel bombs — an oil drum packed with explosives, oil and shrapnel — on civilians instead.
Kerry conceded that the deal with the international community to dispose of his chemical weapons stockpile meant that “Assad has improved his position a little bit,” but “he’s still not winning.”
“I don’t want to make any excuse whatsoever. We want this to move faster. We want it to do better,” he said. “But I remember talks around Vietnam, where it took Henry Kissinger a year to get the size and shape of the table decided. It took another several years before they even came to some kind of an agreement.”
“I don’t want it to be years. We don’t have years in Syria. But the point I’m making is that diplomacy is tough, slogging, slow work and hard work. But we’re beginning to see the — the shaping of how you might potentially get somewhere. And we are always in the process of reevaluating whether there’s more we can do, should do. We’ll work with Congress. We’re working internally to figure out if we should — if there’s a way to get more response from the Russians, more response from Assad.”
Syria missed another deadline in the chemical weapons deal today. Less than 5 percent of its arsenal has been turned over for disposal.
According to the United Nations’ timeline, by this day on the calendar more than 90 percent of the stockpile should have been relinquished.
“This is just the latest evidence that the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia has only strengthened Assad. Rather than feeling pressure to leave, with ongoing Russian and Iranian support, Assad has dug in. At talks in Switzerland last month, Assad’s representatives would not even agree to allow humanitarian access to besieged cities such as Homs. Now we see evidence that Assad is up to his old brutal tactics, dropping barrel bombs and indiscriminately killing civilians, including many children,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said today.
“…We are going to be living with the consequences of the Obama Administration’s failed Syria policy for decades to come. It is time for the administration to increase pressure on Assad instead of giving him more room to maneuver.”