ISIS Rise in Syria and Hoped to ‘Manage’ it — Kerry
on Leaked Tape
By Philip Weiss
- Last fall
Secretary of State Kerry met privately with anti-Assad
Syrian activists at the U.N. The meeting was
secretly taped, and you can listen to the tape here:
The thrust of
the conversation was the mutual frustration of Kerry
and the Syrians that Bashar al-Assad was still in
power and able to commit atrocities with the support
of the Russians, who don’t adhere to international
law the way we Americans do. I’d recommend listening
to the whole tape; but the conversation went
something like this:
complained we aren’t helping enough. Kerry and his
associates said we and the Saudis and Qatar and
Turkey had provided huge amounts of aid to the
rebels, who unfortunately were sort of aligned with
it hard,” Kerry said, referring to Jabhat al-Nusra,
the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. “Nusra and Daesh
[ISIS] both make it hard, because you have this
extreme element out there and unfortunately some of
the opposition has kind of chosen to work with
The rise of
extremists had led to Russia’s intervention. Kerry
said (at minute 26) that when Daesh, or ISIS,
started to grow, the US watched and thought we could
“manage” the ISIS situation, because it might push
Assad to negotiate, but instead Putin came in.
reason Russia came in is because ISIL was
getting stronger, Daesh was threatening the
possibility of going to Damascus and so
forth. And that’s why Russia went in.
Because they didn’t want a Daesh government
and they supported Assad.
we know that this was growing. We were
watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in
strength, and we thought Assad was
threatened. We thought, however, we could
probably manage, that Assad would then
negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got
Putin to support him.”
activists present wanted more US aid, but Kerry and
an aide said more military aid was problematic.
“Right now we’re putting an extraordinary amount of
arms in,” the secretary of state said. His aide said
that arms are a double edged sword, because “when
you pump more weapons into a place like Syria, it
doesn’t end well for Syria. Because there’s always
someone willing to put in arms from the other side.”
problem is that, you know, you get, quote,
enforcers in there and then everybody ups the
ante, right? Russia puts in more, Iran puts in
more; Hezbollah is there more and Nusra is more;
and Saudi Arabia and Turkey put all their
surrogate money in, and you all are destroyed.”
Kerry said the
US wants a “political process” to supplant the
fighting: elections, with millions of Syrian
refugees in other countries allowed to vote– so that
in his view Assad was sure to lose. The Syrians
present rejected this. One insisted that Assad had
to be toppled by an invasion, because Syrians even
outside the country would fear for their loved ones
in the country. Kerry said a ground invasion by
America would not be supported by Americans, due to
thousands dead from our other wars. Kerry said he
was one of those within the Administration who
wanted more action, but he lost the argument. He
was as frustrated as they were.
because Congress will not authorize the use of
conversation was mostly about that frustration, but
along the way Kerry said some rather revealing
things. Combine this with the
wikileaks revelation that the US State
Department and Hillary Clinton knew our Arab allies
Saudi Arabia and Qatar
were giving ISIS “clandestine financial and logistic
support” as it swept across Iraq and Syria in
2014, and you have the anti-interventionist view of
America’s role in the Syrian war all nicely set out
by John Kerry and someone in the State Department:
We and our Arab allies supplied weapons. This caused
the violence to escalate. The good rebels “kind of”
work with extremists, who get direct funding from
our Arab allies. We thought the rise of ISIS would
prove useful in pressuring Assad, but Putin
intervened not because Russia wants to bomb
civilians but because of the rise of ISIS. So our
arming of the rebels and our clever hopes to manage
the rise of ISIS while it put pressure on Assad led
to more violence.
sounds like a list of reasons for why the U.S.
shouldn’t have intervened, along with the fact that
we had no right to do so.
How was this
the New York Times story of September 30, 2016?
Anne Barnard framed it in terms of the US failing to
exert the beneficent use of force.
of State John Kerry was clearly exasperated, not
least at his own government.
over again, he complained to a small group of
Syrian civilians that his diplomacy had not been
backed by a serious threat of military force,
according to an audio recording of the meeting
obtained by The New York Times.
Barnard did focus on what the participants in this
conversation would have thought important—Kerry
representing American Good Intentions and the views
of those who want America to use its military might
to overthrow a brutal government that isn’t one of
our own clients.
think the only solution is for somebody to come
in and get rid of Assad?” Mr. Kerry asked.
[Marcell] Shehwaro said.
that going to be?” he asked. “Who’s going to do
“Three years ago, I would say: You. But
right now, I don’t know.”
emphasis was on the fact that in the view of
those present, the US hasn’t done enough. The
geopolitical context the tape provided was
simply absent from the story. No doubt Assad and
the Russians are responsible for many
atrocities, but surely anyone listening should
have been able to pick up on the fact that Kerry
was inadvertently making a devastating case
against US intervention in Syria.
As for the
arms we put in, Barnard states: “But he also
said any further American effort to arm rebels
or join the fight could backfire”.
the arms already sent? “Right now we’re putting
an extraordinary amount of arms in,” Kerry said,
unquoted by the Times. Was there something in
Kerry’s logic that would show our past arms
support did no harm, but future support would?
Doesn’t his argument point to the painful
awareness that some of the hundreds of thousands
who have died in Syria died because we and our
allies kept the war going?
also expressed sympathy for the Syrians’
demands that the United States intervene
more forcefully amid Syrian and Russian
airstrikes against civilians, telling the
group that he “lost the argument” for using
military force against the regime of Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad
be hard pressed to think of an example where
activists passionately opposed to US
interventions or crimes or the crimes of our
allies had a private conversation with an
American Secretary of State. How many
Palestinians or victims in Yemen or for that
matter, Syrians opposed to the rebels ever get
to have such meetings? No need to worry about
media bias in reporting such conversations,
because they never seem to happen anyway. So
Kerry can go on about our adherence to
international law, drawing a distinction between
us and the Russians, in the certainty he won’t
be contradicted by people in Yemen, as
1000 children die each week largely because
of our Saudi allies, with our support. And Kerry
probably won’t be speaking with people from
though in a hot-mic situation Kerry himself
angrily referred to the Israeli bombing of
the strip in 2014 as a “hell of a pinpoint
tweeted about the tape last week, spiking
interest in the matter. The audio has received a
fair amount of attention on some rightwing
blogs, who call Obama a traitor for supporting
ISIS. That exaggerates what is on the tape. On
the left the references have been intermittent
so far. Joe Lauria at Common
Dreams correctly summarized the
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S.,
rather than seriously fight Islamic State in
Syria, was ready to use the growing strength
of the jihadists to pressure Assad to
#Russia intervened in #Syria, by John Kerry.
And why the US watched #ISIS rise & wanted
to use it.
puzzling. One would expect the MSM to suppress
the really interesting parts which go against
the narrative usually pushed, which is one where
we are the undoubted good guys, if somewhat
feckless, and the Russians are pure evil. But
why hasn’t it gotten more attention on the left?
You aren’t going to find a better case against
our intervention in Syria than the one made by
thanks to Donald Johnson.
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