I have read the long 35,000 word transcript of the US Senate hearing on US President Obama’s nominee for the post of Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry. This hearing was held before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which had previously been chaired by Senator Kerry himself. In order to understand the characteristics of the new US Secretary of State, whose appointment is expected to be unanimously approved, we should know that he had previously testified before such a committee more than 40 years ago as a soldier returning from the Vietnam War.
So, Kerry is a seasoned politician. He is well-informed about our region to the extent that he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on six separate occasions. In other words, Kerry knows our region, and its leaders, well.
Despite this, I am concerned about what I have read, particularly as Kerry has failed to demonstrate clear positions on vital issues, specifically Syria and Iran. Even Senator John McCain urged Kerry to take a clear position that is in line with America’s moral concepts and national interest by opposing the actions of the Assad regime. Addressing Kerry, Senator McCain said, “We are sowing the wind in Syria, and we’re going to reap the whirlwind. And that whirlwind will be the increased presence of Al-Qaeda and Islamist groups, which are now flooding into Syria, as you know. Sixty thousand dead and counting, and the fall of Assad is ‘inevitable’. You know that Assad is thinking about Plan B, and that’s going to the coast and doing some ethnic cleansing.” He added, “We’ve had a lot of hearings. We haven’t done anything. We’ve got, sixty thousand dead after 22 months, and all we hear from the administration is that the fall of Assad is ‘inevitable’. I hope so . . . and I know that from our previous conversation . . . you will make this your highest priority.”
However Kerry failed to clearly respond to McCain on this issue. He spoke about his hope regarding cooperation with the Russians, and McCain replied that the Russians are saying that they will cooperate but that they continue to provide Assad with arms. Kerry replied, “Whatever judgments you make, they have to pass a test of whether or not you do them, they are actually going to make things better.” He continued, “You have to make a test of a cost analysis in doing that. And I mean all kinds of costs—human life costs, treasure, effects on other countries.”
This was a long hearing and it was not limited to reviewing Kerry’s positions on Syria but also focused on a number of other issues of primary importance to the world’s superpowers.
I am well aware of the importance of these other issues in this wide and troubled world, from Iran to North Korea, China and Latin America; however I believe that the situation is Syria remains the most important issue today. Ten months ago, Al-Qaeda had not yet appeared on the scene in Syria, while today its forces are part of this conflict. This is all due to the international hesitancy to get involved and prevent the Assad regime from killing the Syrian people and destroying the country. This is something that has greatly angered the people of the region.
The US failure to intervene in Syria has ruined everything that has been achieved—with great difficulty—in the war on extremist ideology and terrorist groups. This had been part of a major campaign launched over the past 10 years against armed groups and Al-Qaeda, which succeeded specifically in confronting extremist ideology at a grassroots level. However we are now returning to square one. I believe that a future Secretary of State Kerry will be able to understand the nature of the conflict and the threat that the Obama administration’s indifference over the past two years represents. The fall of the Syrian regime will result in the Iranians losing their right-hand in terms of implementing their terrorist policies, especially if we are able to help the Syrian people establish a democratically elected regime. If Assad flees Damascus, and as McCain said, this is “inevitable”, then we will witness extremist jihadists on one side and thousands of al-Assad’s pro-militia Shabiha on the other coast, carrying out ethnic cleansing. This would be the outcome of allowing powers like Al-Qaeda and Iran to operate freely in Syria.