Kerry: 'Diplomacy' Has Been 'Marred' by Ceasefire Breaches, 'Destruction,' Russian Actions in Syria

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the word “diplomacy” has been “marred by these breaches of the ceasefire” in Syria “and by the destruction and by Russia’s persistent support of Assad in a way that is beyond the seeking of a political settlement.”

Kerry was asked at the Washington Ideas Forum about Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocking “John ‘Not Delusional’ Kerry” for making “finally, a real power move in American diplomacy” by threatening to cut off talks with Russia if Moscow doesn’t stop Syria attacks.

“We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools, and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo,” McCain and Graham said Wednesday. “After all, butchering the Syrian people to save the Assad regime is an important Russian goal. But not if it comes at the unthinkable price of dialogue with Secretary Kerry.”

Kerry said today that he makes “no apology, nor does President Obama, none whatsoever, for trying to reach out and find out if there is a way to achieve the political settlement that everybody says is the only way to solve the problem of Syria.”

“Well, if there’s no military solution, what is the political solution and how do you get there? And who’s going to get you there? Well, it’s the job of the secretary of state and it’s the job of diplomats to try to do that, as tough as it may be, and it is tough,” he said.

On McCain and Graham, Kerry said he’s “not worried about lampooning, particularly from people who don’t seem to have the votes or the ability to be able to cobble together a legitimate plan or a legitimate approach.”

“I don’t see Congress panting to put people on the ground to go to war in Syria. I don’t see people — it’s easy to be critical of the diplomatic effort because it’s difficult, but what is the alternative? Is the United States of America going to go to war in Syria? I don’t think that’s about to happen,” he said. “We are at war against ISIL and we are going to win that war; I have no doubt about that. And we are making enormous progress, but that is different and distinct from involving ourselves directly into the civil war, which is the war against Assad.”

Kerry called “the type of operations” being conducted by the Russians “inappropriate to be bombing the way they are.”

“It is completely against the laws of war, it is against decency, it is against any common morality, and it is costing enormously,” he added.

He said foreign policy is “a combination of interests, values” that are sometimes, but not always, “melded.”

“Sometimes interests are of far greater importance to a particular moment and you may have tension with the values because of the level of the interest, or the values may be — I mean, the Holocaust or Rwanda or — which is also relevant to the debate about Syria, by the way, is the killings and the torture and the barrel bombs and the gas,” Kerry said.

Asked what’s he “least satisfied” about as he nears the end of this administration, Kerry said he’s “very, very dissatisfied with where we are in Syria” and sees “many challenges that are extremely difficult right now” in Yemen and Libya.

Kerry is happier with the “monumental” Paris climate change agreement and with the campaign against ISIS.

“I think we could move faster to some degree, but I think the president has really gotten us on a track where you can see where we’re going in Iraq, you can see where we’re heading in Syria, and he’s constantly looking for ways to try to accelerate that.”