Tuesday, December 15, 2015

John Kerry: Okay, Assad Can Stay

by JASmius

Untoppable lede: "Obama wants regime change. Putin doesn’t want regime change. Regime change canceled":

“The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting President Vladimir Putin. A major international conference on Syria would take place later this week in New York, Kerry announced…

[A]fter a day of discussions with Assad’s key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad.” Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which “Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria.”…

Kerry said, “No one should be forced to choose between a dictator and being plagued by terrorists.” However, he described the Syrian opposition’s demand that Assad must leave as soon as peace talks begin as a “nonstarting position, obviously.”

One more non-surprise to go on the White House pile.  Obama had his chance to drive out Boy Assad himself two years ago in what became his "Operation Don't Mock Me"/"Red Lines" debacle, even though it would have simply handed all of Syria over to ISIS instead of just its eastern half.  Instead he chickened out and punted Syria to Czar Vlad, who actually knew what he wanted to do with Syria - use it as a forward Russian Middle East beachhead - and propping up Assad was congruent with that goal.  Once Russian forces were deployed, any possibility of forcing out the Syrian dictator went from extremely unlikely (because it would have required a U.S. invasion) to flatly impossible (because there's no way Obama will ever attack Russia under any circumstances, much less to oust Assad or save face over his failure to do so when he had the chance, which shows you how much he REALLY cared about it).  It's just taken him three months to grudgingly and publicly admit it.  But it was inevitable.

My guesses as to why O bowed to Putin (again), in ascending order of likelihood?  (1) To obtain more help against ISIS (which we ought not need) from Moscow, and (2) it's a clandestine attempt to intercede on the Turks' witting or unwitting behalf to assuage the "Russian strongman" on Ankara's behalf by coughing up fresh concessions.  The best they can do as a face-save of this face-plant is to try and word-parse between Assad going and Assad's regime, as if there was any practical difference between the two.  Something I would have expected a fellow dictator to have understood instinctively.

View image on Twitter
Today, the U.S. no longer seeks Assad's ouster. Yesterday this was in David Remnick's New Yorker piece.

This is, in other words, much less of a concession than it really looks, but Vlad made certain it looked like the most craven capitulation possible anyway.  Kind of like how The One always made John Boehner look in budget negotiations at this time each year.  Will it curry any favor with Putin as far as any anti-ISIS quid pro quo?  Not a chance, outside of his ruthlessly clear-eyed perception of Russian strategic interests.  But he'll let Red Barry think it's true, and even that won't be a concession since even the "Russian strongman" can't batter down that cosmic ego, and knows better than to try.when manipulating him with it is so much more useful.

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