In a closed-door meeting on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry told several lawmakers that the Obama administration’s Syria plan was inadequate, and that the U.S. needed to more aggressively arm Syrian rebels to better combat both the Assad regime and the surging al Qaeda presence.
The meeting, which took place in Munich, “was supposed to have been private,” according to Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, but was leaked to Goldberg, the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, and Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Kerry’s criticisms of the policy were wide-ranging. According to Rogin:
Kerry also said he believes the regime of Bashar al Assad is failing to uphold its promise to give up its chemical weapons according to schedule; that the Russians are not being helpful in solving the Syrian civil war; and that the Geneva 2 peace talks that he helped organize are not succeeding. But according to the senators, Kerry now wants to arm Syria’s rebels—in part, to block the local al Qaeda affiliates who have designs on attacking the U.S. (Kerry’s spokesperson denied that he now wants to supply weapons, but did not dispute the overall tenor of the conversation.)
The comments came after eight days of fruitless negotiations in Geneva between the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels. Violence in Syria continues to claim lives—the death toll is now over 136,000—while the Syrian government is already behind schedule in its destruction of chemical weapons.
That Kerry feels the administration’s Syria policy should be more forceful is not exactly surprising, given how strongly he argued for intervention before the negotiations that resulted in the chemical weapons agreement. Those present at the meeting say Kerry is lobbying for an increase in arms to the Syrian rebels, who thus far have seen a trickle of weapons from the CIA.
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