According to Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News, two prominent Republican senators are claiming Secretary of State John Kerry told a briefing of 13 members of Congress yesterday that the White House was developing a new “more assertive” Syria policy. The senators claim Kerry as much as admitted the Obama administration’s current policy was not working.
Republican Senator Graham’s take
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was quoted as saying, “Kerry told the delegation that, “the al-Qaeda threat is real, it is getting out of hand…He acknowledged that the chemical weapons [delivery] is being slow-rolled; the Russians continue to supply arms [and that] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy. He openly talked about supporting arming the rebels. He openly talked about forming a coalition against al-Qaeda because it’s a direct threat.”
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Sounding out meeting
Several sources reported that Kerry spent a good deal of time during the meeting sounding out support from both sides of the aisle for more aggressive action on Syria. While the secretary received a good bit of moral support for his statements, even Democrats at the meeting told Kerry there is little support for deeper involvement in Syria among constituents back home.
Description from Democratic senator
“I would not characterize what he said as a plea for a new policy, but that, in light of recent, dramatic developments, the administration is exploring possible new directions,” was the description of Kerry’s talk by one Democratic House member who attended the meeting. “He wasn’t arguing so much that the administration needs a new policy, but that the administration is considering a range of options based on recent developments.”
Kerry’s main points
Kerry made several points during his talk, which was entirely focused on the subject of Syria. Kerry supposedly said that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria could pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Beyond that, Russia is continuing to arm the despotic regime of Bashar al-Assad, and is actively subverting any chance for a peaceful settlement. Kerry is also reported to have said that Syria is violating its promise to destroy all chemical weapons. Not surprisingly, Kerry also reiterated his personal view that it is time to start a more significant arming of moderate Syrian rebels.