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SecState[?] John #Kerry and his 'dear friend' Bashar #Assad in #Syria

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  • Cort Greene
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/21/1171392/-SecState-John-Kerry-and-his-dear-friend-Bashar-al-Assad# FRI DEC 21, 2012 AT 02:20 PM PST SecState[?] John
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2012

      FRI DEC 21, 2012 AT 02:20 PM PST
      SecState[?] John #Kerry and his 'dear friend' Bashar #Assad in

      byClay Claiborne


      - Email<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/21/1171392/-SecState-John-Kerry-and-his-dear-friend-Bashar-al-Assad#>

      - 25 Comments / 25

      President Barack Obama has just nominated Senator John Kerry for the
      position of Secretary of State.

      I believe John Kerry first came to public notice as a member of Vietnam
      Veterans Against the War <http://www.vvaw.org/> in the early 1970's.
      Probably his introduction to the Senate came in April 1971 when he became
      the first Vietnam veteran to testify before congress.

      More recently he has been a senator himself and chairman of the very same
      Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he first testified before more that
      forty years ago.

      More recently, he has been President Barack Obama's point man on US
      relations with Syria and it's dictator President Bashar al-Assad.
      Senator John Kerry with *"dear friend"* Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

      John Kerry visited Damascus as part of the Cardin Congressional delegation
      in February 2009. While there, Mr. and Mrs. Kerry had dinner with Mr. and
      Mrs. Assad. He also had private meetings with Assad. He returned from this
      visit, full of hope<http://www.haaretz.com/news/senator-kerry-syria-willing-to-help-achieve-palestinian-unity-1.270630>
      building good relationships between the Assad regime and the White House:

      *"I believe very deeply that this is an important moment of change, a
      moment of potential transformation, not just in the relationship between
      the United States and Syria but in the relationship of the region,"*
      *"My hope [is that] in the next days things will begin to emerge that can
      begin to signal that kind of different possibility."*

      Seymour Hersh interviewed Kerry about this trip and wrote about it in the
      New Yorker, 6 April 2009, and he
      Kerry's hopes:

      These diplomatic possibilities were suggested by Senator John Kerry, of
      Massachusetts, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who met
      with Assad in Damascus in February-his third visit since Assad took office,
      in 2000. *"He wants to engage with the West,"* Kerry said in an interview
      in his Senate office. *"Our latest conversation gave me a much greater
      sense that Assad is willing to do the things that he needs to do in order
      to change his relationship with the United States. He told me he's willing
      to engage positively with Iraq, and have direct discussions with Israel
      over the Golan Heights-with Americans at the table. I will encourage the
      Administration to take him up on it.*

      *"Of course, Syria will not suddenly move against Iran,"* Kerry said. *"But
      the Syrians will act in their best interest, as they did in their indirect
      negotiations with Israel with Turkey's assistance-and over the objections
      of Iran."*

      As President Obama's conduit to Assad, as he developed his new policy of
      engagement with Syria, John Kerry made numerous trips Damascus during this
      period. It must have been after one of these trips that the incident reported
      Magazine took place:

      Staffers describe their collective cringe when, after a motorcycle ride
      with Bashar al-Assad, he returned to Washington referring to Bashar as *“my
      dear friend.”* Bashar may be a lot of things, but *“my dear friend”*—an
      address Kerry used only with a select few, such as the late Ted
      Kennedy—should not have been one.

      And indeed, with Kerry's guidance, relations with the Assad regime were
      steadily developed. By August 2009, a US military team was in
      talks. A Stratfor analyst
      developments to that point:

      Syria offering intel cooperation on AQ, Iran, HZ
      Syria facilitating March 14 win in Lebanon
      Saudi pouring money into Syrian coffers
      US and Saudi rewarding Syria with diplomatic recognition (notice how quiet
      everyone is about Lebanon)
      Signs that Syria is moving forward -- big Syrian military/intel reshuffles;
      Iran threatening to destabilize the Syrian regime; HZ anxiety
      this is all covered in our analysis

      Less than a year later, in March 2010, an internal Syrian email [soon to be
      released by Wikileaks <>] catalogs the developments in the
      past year from the Syrian pov:

      1‐ Since January 2009, there have been multiple visits to Syria by US
      officials, including:

      ‐ Administration officials, namely Under Secretary of State William Burns,
      Special Envoy Senator George Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey
      Feltman, White House‐NSC Senior Director Dan Shapiro, and Counterterrorism
      Coordinator Daniel Benjamin, among others.

      ‐ Members of Congress, such as Senators Judd Gregg, John Kerry, Ted Kaufman
      and Benjamin Cardin; and Representatives Adam Smith, Tim Walz , Alcee
      Hastings, Stephen Lynch, Howard Berman, at the head of several
      congressional delegations.

      ‐ High‐Ranking military officers from US Central Command.

      2‐ US Officials have repeatedly emphasized the importance of improved US
      relations with Syria, the positive role Syria can play in the region, and
      the need for Syria to join peace efforts.

      3‐ On July 28, 2009, the US administration initiated steps to ease American
      sanctions against Syria, starting with allowing the export of material
      related to information technology, telecommunication equipment and civil

      4‐ The US lifted an advisory that warned American travelers about security
      concerns in Syria.

      5‐ The US is getting ready to send back its ambassador to Damascus.

      6‐ Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Al‐Miqdad was invited to Washington in
      October 2009 for high‐level talks with US officials.

      7‐ Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustafa has been having regular
      meetings at the White House, the State Department and Congress with various
      US officials, after 5 years of boycott.

      The next month, April 2010, Kerry was back in Damascus again, according to
      State Department cables released by

      Maybe Kerry was taken in by the urban upper-class manors of Bashar
      al-Assad; maybe there was something that reminded him of his Yale Skull &
      Crossbones days, or maybe it was just the shared class-consciousness of
      people in power, but whatever caused John Kerry to connect with the
      dictator, other things were happening in Syria that ultimately should lead
      to the overthrow of his *"dear friend"* Bashar al-Assad. The status quo of
      the entire region was about to be overthrown from below, by the very forces
      that were *never* consulted in Kerry's negotiations with Assad.

      Already two dictators had been overthrown, in Tunisia and Egypt, Qaddafi
      was shooting at protesters in Libya and demonstrations were starting to
      breakout in Syria when Haaretz
      24 February 2011:

      U.S. Senator John Kerry and Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly began
      drafting an unofficial position paper that would define the principles of
      negotiations with Israel.

      U.S. Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations
      Committee and a close associate of U.S. President Barack Obama, has been
      working together with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the last few
      months on a plan to restart negotiations between Syria and Israel.
      Kerry has met with Assad in Damascus five times over the last two years.
      The issue of restarting Israeli-Syrian talks was raised at all of these
      meetings, and a few months ago, the two began exploring practical ideas for
      doing so.

      In his public report back, 16 March 2011, at the Carnegie Endowment for
      International Peace, he said:

      *"President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the
      discussions we have had,"* Mr. Kerry said. *"I think it's incumbent on us
      to try to move that relationship forward in the same way.*
      *"So my judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces
      a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic
      opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it."*

      As compared with his views on future relations with Syria under Assad, the
      views he expressed at that Carnegie
      Libya under Qaddafi were quite hawkish, and sound ironic today, given his
      non-interventionist stand on Syria:

      With Libya on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, Kerry stressed
      that *“the
      international community cannot watch from the sidelines as a quest for
      democracy is met with raw violence.”* Kerry endorsed recommendations by the
      Arab League and the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan
      airspace and said that U.S. and international leaders should consider
      is necessary”* to prevent further escalation of violence.

      Whether Kerry knew it of not, the day before his Carnegie talk, 15 March
      was the *"Day of Rage,"* the official start of the Syrian Revolution. Wikipedia
      day this way:

      Simultaneous demonstrations took place in major cities across Syria.
      Thousands of protesters gathered in al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and
      Hama. There were some clashes with security, according to reports from
      dissident groups. In Damascus, a smaller group of 200 men grew
      spontaneously to about 1,500 men. Damascus has not seen such uprising since
      the 1980s. The official Facebook page called *"Syrian Revolution 2011"*showed
      pictures of supportive demonstrations in Cairo, Nicosia, Helsinki, Istanbul
      and Berlin. There were also unconfirmed news that Syrian revolution
      supporters of Libyan descent, stormed into the Syrian Embassy in Paris
      After the first day of the uprising there were reports about approximately
      3000 arrests and a few *"martyrs"*, but there are no official figures on
      the number of deaths

      Since that first day, the death toll has climbed towards 50,000, with
      hundreds of thousands arrested or disappeared and half a million seeking
      refuge outside of Syria.

      New Syria policy needed

      John Kerry has come a long ways since his first days as an anti-war
      activist, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Obama's
      man in Damascus, he put a lot of time and energy into a plan that depended
      on the continued success of one man, or at a minimum, the regime that he

      John Kerry had no illusion about what kind of government Assad ran; when he
      co-sponsored the Syria Accountability Act in 2003 he

      The Syrian government has historically ruled by methods such as torture,
      arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged detention without trial, and
      limits on freedom of speech and the press.

      Yet he bet on that government and he clung to the hope that Assad would
      survive, and with him, all those plans the two of them had made together,
      long after the revolution against his rule had begun. In June 2012, Klein
      Halevy, a Jerusalem-based contributor to the New
      meeting she had with Kerry in 2011:

      Last year, I was part of a group of Israelis who met in Jerusalem with
      Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Mr. Kerry had just come from Damascus
      with excellent news: Bashar al-Assad was ready for peace with Israel. When
      one of the participants mentioned that demonstrations had begun to
      challenge Mr. Assad’s legitimacy, Mr. Kerry’s response was: All the more
      reason to negotiate while he’s still in power.

      That was then and this is now. Clearly Assad's *"still in power"* days are
      numbered. I'm sure John Kerry and everyone else in the Obama administration
      realize that now. They refused any military aid to Assad's opposition and
      even did their best to deny them heavy weapons, but that has only delayed,
      at great human costs, the inevitable defeat of the Assad regime.

      If and when John Kerry takes on the tasks of Secretary of State, I hope he
      can grab something of the past from his own history as a protester and as a
      soldier in a rebel army [VVAW <http://www.vvaw.org/>] that can help him
      relate to those who will most hopefully will be running Syria in the near

      It looks very likely that Syria will be his first big foreign policy
      challenge. He must realize that all the fancy plans he made over the years
      with Assad are now as dead as Qaddafi.

      He will now have to lead the United States in building a new relationship
      to Syria with the knowledge that our recent actions and lack of
      humanitarian concern, has done almost nothing to endear us to the Syrian
      people, and he will rightfully be seen as one of the chief engineers of
      that policy.
      John Kerry as he appears in my film Vietnam: American
      What a long strange trip its been!


      Here are my related diaries on Syria:
      A Libyan rebel speaks out on Jihadists in
      Does what Obama said at Newtown apply to
      BREAKING: Heavy fighting in Damascus as coup attempt reported in
      Assad's jets bomb Palestinian refugee
      Jabhat al-Nusra is a Threat to the Syrian

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