Kerry, on leaked tape, says U.S. watched ISIL’s rise in Syria and hoped to ‘manage it’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 12, 2017

The United States’ plans to use the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) to push President Bashar Assad to negotiate went awry when Russia came to the defense of its ally in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger, Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth. And that’s why Russia went in. Because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad,” Kerry said in a meeting with anti-Assad Syrian activists at the UN last fall. The meeting was secretly taped and leaked to the media.

Secretary of State John Kerry

“And we know that this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage it and that Assad would then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him,” Kerry said.

Kerry and his aides said another drawback in Syria was that the U.S., the Saudis, Qatar and Turkey had provided huge amounts of aid to anti-Assad rebels but many wound up aligning with jihadists.

“Nusra makes it hard,” Kerry said, referring to Jabhat al-Nusra, the former Al Qaida affiliate in Syria. “Nusra and Daesh [ISIL] both make it hard, because you have this extreme element out there and unfortunately some of the opposition has kind of chosen to work with them.”

The Syrian activists present at the UN meeting had asked for more military aid from the U.S., but Kerry and an aide said that was problematic. “Right now we’re putting an extraordinary amount of arms in,” the secretary of state said. His aide said that “when you pump more weapons into a place like Syria, it doesn’t end well for Syria. Because there’s always someone willing to put in arms from the other side.”

Kerry went on to say that “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; Hizbullah is there more and Nusra is more; and Saudi Arabia and Turkey put all their surrogate money in, and you all are destroyed.”

Kerry said during the meeting that the U.S. sought a “political process” to supplant the fighting which would include elections – with millions of Syrian refugees in other countries allowed to vote – so that in his view Assad was sure to lose.

The Syrian activists at the meeting rejected Kerry’s idea, with one saying Assad had to be ousted by an invasion because even Syrians outside the country would fear for their loved ones in the country.

Kerry said a ground invasion by America would not be supported by Americans. The secretary of state also said he was one of few within the Obama administration who wanted more action in Syria, but he lost the argument.