Saturday, January 07, 2017

Bloody red line

John Kerry's defence of the Kerry-Lavrov Pact which removed some of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons as an alternative to a military attack in the wake of the Ghouta atrocity --

And the President decided – I got a call Friday night, we met Saturday morning, and the President decided that he needed to go to Congress because of what had happened in Great Britain and because he needed the approval, and that was the way we do something like that. It wasn’t forthcoming very rapidly, number one. But number two, in the – the President never said, “I don’t want to bomb.” He never said, “I’m not going to.” He went to Congress to get permission to. And in the meantime, at a press conference in London – you may have been there – I was asked the question, “Is there anything that Assad could do in order to avoid being bombed?” And I said, “Yes. He could agree to get rid of his weapons.” And within an hour, an hour and a half, I got a phone call from Sergey Lavrov of Russia suggesting that was a really good idea, why don’t we work on whether or not we could do that? And President Obama and President Putin had actually talked about it a few weeks earlier in St. Petersburg, and I’d already talked to Lavrov – I’d actually talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu about it, who thought it was a good idea. And so all of a sudden, Lavrov and I were thrown together by our presidents in an effort to try to achieve that. And guess what? We did achieve it before Congress voted. The President never said, “I won’t drop a bomb.” What happened was people interpreted it. The perception was that he was trying to find a different road. And I will acknowledge to you, absolutely, I heard it all over the place. The perception hurt, yes. The perception hurt, but the perception came about despite the fact that we actually got a far better result of getting all of the weapons of mass destruction of Syria without dropping a bomb. And if we had dropped a bomb, there is no guarantee we would have gotten any of them out.

QUESTION: Is Syria today a better result, sir?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, obviously Syria is – it has nothing to do with that. What is happening today in Syria has nothing to do with the dropping or not dropping. It has everything to do with whether or not Assad was ready and willing to be held accountable by Russia and Iran to actually live by the agreements that they offered, and also whether or not the opposition was able to act in a way that could create enough leverage for Assad to have to come to the table and negotiate. And obviously, when Putin went in and put his troops on the ground to support – and his airplanes in the air to support Assad, that whole ballgame changed. We acknowledge that.

He never connects that it's the same actor in the two stages of his argument i.e. that it was Russia which seized on his London remark about the possibility of removing the weapons to stave off an attack, and it was Russia that did not push Assad to follow up with deescalating the war.

Bashar al-Assad learned one thing from the chemical weapons episode: that he could kill as many people as he wanted, as long it wasn't done too overtly using banned weapons.

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