Audio Reveals What Jackass Told Syrian Rebels Behind Closed Doors
Anne Barnard, NYT, Sep 30 2016
BEIRUT — Jackass Kerry was clearly exasperated, not least at his own government. Over and 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 NYT. The 40-minute discussion, on the sidelines of last week’s UNGA in NY, provides a glimpse of Jackass’ frustration with his inability to end the Syrian crisis. He veered between voicing sympathy for the Syrians’ frustration with Pindosi policy and trying to justify it. At the meeting last week, Jackass was trying to explain that Pindostan has no legal justification for attacking Assad’s government, whereas Russia was invited in by the government. He said:
The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do.
Jackass has been hamstrung by Russia’s military operations in Syria and by his inability to persuade Washington to intervene more forcefully. He has also been unable to sell Syrian opponents of Assad, like the ones in that room, on a policy he does not whole-heartedly believe in. His frustrations and dissent within the Obama administration have hardly been a secret, but in the recorded conversation, Jackass lamented being outmaneuvered by the Russians, expressed disagreement with some of Obama’s policy decisions and said Congress would never agree to use force. He said:
We’re trying to pursue the diplomacy, and I understand it’s frustrating. You have nobody more frustrated than we are.
The meeting took place at the Dutch Mission to the UN on Sep 22. There were perhaps 20 people around a table: representatives of four Syrian groups that provide education, rescue and medical services in rebel-held areas; diplomats from three or four countries; and Jackass’ chief of staff and special envoy for Syria. The recording was made by a non-Syrian attendee, and several other participants confirmed its authenticity. Adm (retd) Kirby declined on Thursday evening to comment on what he described as a private conversation. He said that Jackass was “grateful for the chance to meet with this group of Syrians, to hear their concerns firsthand and to express our continued focus on ending this civil war.” Several of the Syrian participants said afterward that they had left the meeting demoralized, convinced that no further help would come from the Obama administration. One, a civil engineer named Mustafa Alsyofi, said:
You’ve effectively said: “You have to fight for us, but we will not fight for you.” How can this be accepted by anyone? It’s unbelievable!
In the meeting, he and the others pressed Jackass politely but relentlessly on what they saw as contradictions in Pindosi policy. Their comments crystallized the widespread sense of betrayal even among the Syrians most attractive to Washington as potential partners, civilians pushing for pluralistic democracy. One woman, Marcella Shehwaro, demanded:
What’s the bottom line? How many Syrians have to die to prompt serious action? What is the end of it? What can we do that would be the end of it?
Given Assad’s indifference to anything… There’s a different conversation taking place… The 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; the Turks & Toads put all their surrogate money in, and you all are destroyed.
At another point, Jackass spelled out in stark terms distinctions that Pindostan was making between combatants which have upset the Syrian opposition. Pindostan wants the rebels to help it fight Daesh and AQ because, as he put it, “Both have basically declared war on us.” But Washington will not join the same rebels in fighting Hezbollah, even though it lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group like the others because, as Jackass explained, ““Hezbollah is not plotting against us.” He also spoke of the obstacles he faces back home: a Congress unwilling to authorize the use of force and a public tired of war, saying:
A lot of Pindosis don’t believe that we should be fighting and sending young Pindos over to die in another country.
One of the Syrians in the room assured Jackass, “No one is requesting an invasion,” but he insisted that the rebels needed more help. As time ran short, Jackass told the Syrians:
Your best hope is a political solution to bring the opposition into a transitional government. Then you can have an election and let the people of Syria decide, who do they want?
A State Dept boxtop said later that Jackass was not indicating a shift in the administration’s view of Assad, only reiterating a long-standing belief that he would be ousted in any fair election. At one point, Jackass astonished the Syrians at the table when he suggested that they should participate in elections that include Assad, five years after Obama demanded that he step down. Jackass described the election saying it would be set up by Western and regional powers and the UN “under the strictest standards.” He said:
The millions of Syrians who have fled since the war began in 2011 would be able to participate. Everybody who’s registered as a refugee anywhere in the world can vote. Are they going to vote for Assad? Assad’s scared of this happening!
But the Syrians were skeptical that people living under government rule inside Syria would feel safe casting ballots against Assad, even with international observers, or that Russia would agree to elections if it could not ensure the outcome. And that is when the conversation reached an impasse, with Ms Shehwaro, an educator and social media activist, recalling hopes for a more direct Pindosi role. Jackass asked:
So you think the only solution is for somebody to come in and get rid of Assad?
Ms Shehwaro said “Yes.” Jackass asked:
Who’s that going to be? Who’s going to do that?
Three years ago I would say, “you,” but right now I don’t know.
Jackass Said He Lost Argument to Back Syria Diplomacy With Force
Mohammad Zargham, Reuters, Sep 30 2016
FASCHINGSTEIN — Jackass Kerry, in a meeting last week with a small number of Syrian civilians and others, said he had lost an argument within the Obama administration to back up diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria with the threat of using military force, the NYT reported on Friday. It said it had obtained an audio recording of the 40-minute discussion that took place at the Dutch Mission to the UN on Sep 22. The approximately 20 participants included representatives of four Syrian groups that provide education, rescue and medical services in rebel-held areas and diplomats from three or four countries, the NYT said. The meeting took place days after a ceasefire Jackass had negotiated with Russia had collapsed and rebel-held areas of Aleppo were coming under heavy air strikes as Moscow and Assad’s government rejected a Pindo plea to halt flights. The NYT said Jackass repeatedly complained that his diplomacy had not been backed by a serious threat of military force. Jackass said in an audio clip posted on the NYT website:
I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration who have all argued for use of force, and I lost the argument. We’re trying to pursue the diplomacy, and I understand it’s frustrating. You have nobody more frustrated than we are.
The recording was made by a non-Syrian who attended the session, the newspaper reported, adding that several other participants confirmed its authenticity. Russian forces joined the Syrian war a year ago, tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, who is also supported by Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Lebanon and Iraq. The NYT said several people in the meeting pressed Kerry on what they saw as contradictions in Pindo policy. It said one woman, Marcell Shehwaro, asked “how many Syrians” had to be killed to prompt serious action. Jackass responded that “Assad’s indifference to anything” could push the Obama administration to consider new options, the NYT said, but he also said:
Any further Pindosi effort to arm rebels or join the fight could backfire.
The NYT said Adm (retd) Kirby declined to comment on what he described as a private conversation. The State Dept did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.