American policy over Syria has been not merely ineffective; it has been a catastrophe

Faisal Al Yafai writes: Did he or didn’t he say it? Ever since America’s secretary of state John Kerry gave an interview about the Syrian conflict on Sunday, Washington has been trying to qualify and explain his comments.

Speaking to a US TV network, Mr Kerry said: “We have to negotiate in the end.” That was translated as either a capitulation to Bashar Al Assad, a recognition of the reality of the conflict or an unwise tipping of America’s negotiating hand.

It was, of course, nothing of the sort, as the next sentence from Mr Kerry revealed: “And what we’re pushing for is to get him to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds in order to do that.”

That was also misinterpreted – was Mr Kerry suggesting he would speak directly to Mr Al Assad? The State Department later clarified, no.

So no change, then, in US policy. Mr Al Assad must still go, he must go as part of a political transition and the best way to persuade him to go is to put unspecified pressure on him.

As anyone will know who has even vaguely followed the contortions of the Syrian civil war – which has now entered its fifth year – US and western policy over Syria has been not merely ineffective; it has been a catastrophe. America has been involved in some way in the Syrian civil war for almost as long as it was involved in the Second World War.

The flip-flopping in Washington over Mr Kerry’s remarks reflects a broader flip-flopping in US policy towards Syria. Western policy has failed Syria – and it has failed on America’s watch. [Continue reading…]

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