by WorldTribune Staff, October 2, 2016
A frustrated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a group of Syrian civilians last week that he “lost the argument” within the Obama administration for the use of force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I lost the argument. I’ve argued for the use of force. I’m the guy who stood up and announced that we’re going to attack Assad for the use of (chemical) weapons,” Kerry told the Syrians in a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to an audio recording obtained by CNN.
In the audio from the meeting, Syrian civilians are heard repeatedly questioning Kerry about violations of the ceasefire by Assad’s forces and Russia and America’s unwillingness to enforce the agreement more strongly.
“The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law and we do. They were invited in, we were not,” Kerry said. “We don’t behave like Russians. It’s just a different standard.”
CNN reported that several of the meeting’s participants confirmed the recording’s authenticity.
“You can be mad at us, but what we are trying to do is help Syrians to fight for their own country, and we have been spending a lot of money, a lot of effort,” Kerry said. “Nobody (is) more frustrated than me.”
The meeting occurred just days after the United States and Russia announced a ceasefire agreement in Geneva. That agreement quickly collapsed as Russia and Assad’s air force bombarded Aleppo in preparation for an all-out attack on the city.
Kerry told the Syrians that “if we were going after Assad, we would have to take out all the air defenses and we don’t have a legal justification for doing that.”
Asked about the recording, State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN: “While we will decline to comment on a private conversation, Secretary Kerry 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.”